To mark the end of a busy but successful 2017, the CFA UK Gender Diversity Network (GDN) hosted their end of year event in conjunction in Schroders and Second Curve, titled ‘how memorable are you: build your networking skills’. The session was run by Tom Cassidy from Second Curve, a dedicated Learning and Development professional with international experience of leading talent development initiatives and lifting business performance.
Juliet Bullick, Chair of the CFA UK GDN, opened the session by providing a brief update on the GDN’s activities over 2017, followed by the high-level results of the recent membership survey. Tanya Tracey, Partner Council Manager, then introduced the recently launched Partner Programme, which aims to give firms practical help on diversity practices and share best practice. The Programme has launched with 5 firms for the first 12 months - Allianz, Fidelity, Royal London, PIMCO and Vanguard.
Tom’s session was specifically designed to help participants build their confidence around networking and get their mind-set right, as well as give practical tips on how to build rock-solid relationships. It explored the attitude to have regarding networking, as well as developing the distinct skills for starting conversations, entering networking events, being engaging and finally how to exit powerfully and keep connections warm.
The session was extremely interactive, with participants on their feet and engaging with each other for most of the most part. Tom started by asking people to walk around and start conversation with different people, trying different approaches each time, whilst simultaneously trying to avoid the generic opening lines, such as ‘how are you?’. Participants were then invited to share some of the good opening lines that they had used or heard. Tom noted the effectiveness of asking questions, paying compliments (if appropriate and genuine) and disclosure in starting a conversation. Looking at disclosure in particular, by saying something interesting about yourself and lowering your barriers, it can often encourage the person that you are conversing with to lower theirs.
Tom highlighted the importance of having a strong personal brand, and being authentic to whom you are and what you do. Participants were asked to reflect on how they think people would describe them and also what they would like to be known for in an ideal world, which provided great food for thought.
Communication was another area of focus, with the ‘forgotten art of listening’ being cited as the most powerful communication tool, particularly the art of empathetic listening – allowing the speaker to feel acknowledged and valued.
Tom discussed the importance of being able to keep conversation going once it has started. Tom encouraged participants to put this into practice by striking up conversations with each other and discussing interesting things that have happened to them, as a way of hooking individuals into an engaging exchange.
Exiting a conversation was something that was on a lot of participants’ minds, with people keen to find practical but comfortable ways to do so. Tom noted that usually people exit a conversation by excusing themselves – i.e. saying they are going to get a drink - but this leaves ambiguity…are they coming back? Instead Tom suggesting using the seemingly simple but often highly stressful practice of the ‘honest exit’ - letting people know that it has been great to meet them but you are going to meet some new people and leaving it there. Ultimately if it’s a networking event, people will be expecting you to network! In addition, Tom highlighted the option of inviting someone else into the conversation – connecting individuals – and exiting at that point. If you want to keep in touch, ask to do so and ensure that you keep the connection warm after the event by finding relevant reasons to communicate.