We have all heard of networking, but what really is it, and why is it so crucial for Executive Assistants?
Networking is more than just exchanging business cards or connecting on LinkedIn; it's about cultivating meaningful relationships with peers, mentors, and professionals within and outside your industry. For Executive Assistants, networking serves as a powerful tool to expand knowledge, gain valuable insights, and access a broader pool of resources. It opens doors to fresh perspectives, new opportunities, and a supportive community that can be instrumental in career growth and professional development.
The connections you foster can make a profound difference in your ability to excel and thrive.Here's how you can leverage networking to your advantage:
Peer Networking: Engaging with peers within your organization and industry is a valuable way to exchange ideas, troubleshoot common challenges, and share best practices. Joining internal committees or interest groups can facilitate such connections. For example, participating in regular departmental meetings or cross-functional project teams can help you establish connections within your organization.
Mentorship Programs: Seek out experienced professionals who can serve as mentors. These mentors can provide invaluable guidance based on their own career experiences. Mentorship programs within your organization or industry-specific mentorship initiatives can help match you with the right mentor.
Industry Events: Consider attending renowned industry events such as "Executive Support Live" organized by Lucy Brazier OBE. This event attracts top professionals in the field and offers a platform to exchange knowledge and experiences.
Similarly Lucy's "Executive Support Global" Online version of Executive Support Live host provides opportunities not only to learn but to meet fellow EAs from different cultures and industries, broadening your perspective and enriching your network.
Also FISEC – International Forum of Innovation in Secretariat – from Pepitas Secretaries Club, which is the largest executive secretariat event in Latin America where its main objective is to be the bridge between secretarial professionals from Brazil and the world with the best practices and market trends.
Professional Associations: Joining professional associations related to your field can be a game-changer. These organizations often host networking events, offer webinars, and provide access to industry-specific resources. Examples are
International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP): IAAP is a global association that provides resources, education, and networking opportunities for administrative professionals.
Pepitas Secretaries Club: Founded in 1996 by Pepita Soler, the Pepitas Secretaries Club is considered the largest Executive Secretariat Club in Latin America and aims to empower, expand and develop the emotional, creative and multicultural competencies of the secretarial professional.
Executive Leadership Support Forum (ELS Forum): ELS Forum hosts regional events and an online community designed for Executive Assistants to network and share insights.
Association of Administrative Professionals (AAP): AAP offers networking events, training programs, and resources for administrative professionals in various regions in Canada.
American Society of Administrative Professionals (ASAP): ASAP connects administrative professionals in the United States through events and educational resources.
International Management Assistants (IMA): IMA is an association that provides networking and professional development opportunities for Executive Assistants primarily across Europe but also globally.
Online Networking: The vast array of online platforms has revolutionized the way professionals network and build connections. Among these platforms, LinkedIn, of course, stands out as a particularly potent tool for Executive Assistants looking to expand their network and career opportunities but there are many more ways to connect virtually:-
LinkedIn Groups: LinkedIn features a plethora of industry-specific and professional interest groups. By joining these groups, you gain access to a vast network of like-minded individuals. For example, if you're in the healthcare industry, you can find groups dedicated to healthcare administration and executive support. Engaging in group discussions by sharing insights, asking questions, and participating in conversations can help you establish your presence as an expert in your field.
Professional Associations' Online Communities: Many professional associations, such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), have established their online communities or forums. These platforms allow you to connect with fellow Executive Assistants, share experiences, and seek advice within a more specialized context.
Webinars and Virtual Conferences: The digital age has brought an explosion of webinars and virtual conferences, making it easier than ever to attend industry events from the comfort of your home or office. These events often include networking sessions where you can meet and interact with professionals from various backgrounds and geographic locations.
Social Media Platforms: Beyond LinkedIn, other social media platforms like Twitter (now X), Facebook, and Instagram can also serve as valuable networking tools. Many professionals and organizations share valuable insights and updates on these platforms. Follow relevant accounts, participate in discussions, and use these platforms to stay informed and engaged within your industry.
Online Professional Development Courses: Enrolling in online courses related to your field not only enhances your skills but also provides opportunities to connect with instructors and fellow students. Platforms like Coursera, edX, and LinkedIn Learning offer a wide range of courses that can help you expand your knowledge and network simultaneously.
Virtual Networking Events: Keep an eye out for virtual networking events, which have become more prevalent in recent years. These events can offer structured opportunities to meet professionals, exchange ideas, and build relationships. They often include features like breakout rooms for more intimate discussions.
Personal Blog or Website: Consider starting a personal blog or website to showcase your expertise and experiences. Sharing your insights and professional journey through blog posts can attract like-minded individuals who may reach out for networking or collaboration opportunities.
By actively participating in these online networking avenues, you can extend your reach far beyond your immediate geographic location. Building a robust online presence and fostering meaningful connections can be instrumental in your career progression as an Executive Assistant in today's interconnected world.
Alumni Networks: Utilizing your educational background is a strategic move towards expanding your professional network. Alumni networks are treasure troves of potential connections, characterized by a shared educational experience and a mutual desire to support one another. There are many ways that you can leverage your alma mater such as:
Alumni Associations and Events: Many educational institutions have dedicated alumni associations that organize events, both in-person and virtual. These events provide valuable opportunities to meet and network with fellow graduates. Attend reunions, workshops, and seminars to connect with alumni who share similar career interests.
LinkedIn Alumni Groups: On LinkedIn, you can specifically filter and join alumni groups associated with your alma mater. Engage in discussions, share insights, and connect with alumni who have ventured into your field. This platform provides a professional setting to establish and nurture valuable connections.
Mentorship Programs: Some educational institutions facilitate mentorship programs that pair alumni with current students or recent graduates. Being part of such a program can be a powerful way to network and gain valuable advice from more seasoned professionals.
Career Services and Alumni Networks: Many universities have dedicated career services offices that assist both current students and alumni. They often provide resources, job listings, and networking events. Take advantage of these services to make connections and explore career opportunities.
Online Alumni Directories: Some institutions maintain online directories of alumni. These directories can be a valuable resource for finding and reaching out to fellow graduates in your field or industry. Don't hesitate to initiate conversations or arrange meet-ups.
Social Media Groups and Forums: Beyond LinkedIn, platforms like Facebook and Reddit may host alumni groups or forums. These spaces can be less formal than LinkedIn and may facilitate more casual, yet valuable, connections with former classmates.
Contribute to Alumni Publications: If your alma mater has a magazine or newsletter, consider submitting articles or updates about your professional achievements. This can help raise your profile among alumni and potentially lead to networking opportunities.
Volunteer for Alumni-Related Initiatives: Offer your time and skills to assist with alumni-related initiatives, such as organizing reunions or career development workshops. This involvement not only demonstrates your commitment but also allows you to interact with fellow graduates on a more personal level.
Alumni network is not just about seeking assistance; it's also about giving back and contributing to the community. By actively engaging with your alma mater and fellow graduates, you'll not only expand your network but also strengthen the bonds that tie you to your educational institution. This sense of shared history and purpose can be a powerful asset in your professional journey.
Local Business Groups: Don't overlook local networking groups and chambers of commerce which are valuable resources for expanding your professional network and staying connected with your local business community. These organizations typically host a wide range of events, mixers, and workshops, providing excellent opportunities for meaningful connections and skill development. For instance, consider the American Chamber of Commerce Costa Rica, recently hosted the Advanced Certificate for the Executive Assistant: ACEA® program inaugural event for Costa Rica.
These event offer a fantastic chance to enhance your skills and knowledge through providing:
Local Business Connections: Events hosted by local chambers of commerce often attract a diverse group of professionals from various industries. This diversity creates a rich environment for networking, allowing you to connect with individuals you might not encounter in your day-to-day work. For example, at the Advanced Certificate for the Executive Assistant: ACEA® program, you can meet professionals from various sectors potentially opening doors to new opportunities or collaborations.
Access to Industry Experts: These events frequently feature industry experts and guest speakers who share their insights and experiences. Attending workshops or seminars led by these experts provides you with access to valuable knowledge and the opportunity to engage in discussions. You can use these interactions to build relationships and seek advice from seasoned professionals.
Skill Enhancement: Many chambers of commerce organize workshops and training sessions that can help you acquire new skills or refine existing ones. By participating, you not only improve your skills but also network with peers who share your commitment to professional development.
Building a Local Reputation: Active involvement in local networking groups and chambers of commerce can help you establish yourself as a reputable and engaged professional in your community. When you consistently attend events and contribute to discussions, you become a familiar face, making it easier for others to remember and connect with you.
Business Opportunities: Local networking can lead to various business opportunities, including partnerships, referrals, or even job offers. Engaging with professionals in your area can uncover unexplored avenues for growth and advancement.
Exchange of Ideas: Networking events often encourage the exchange of ideas and best practices. You can learn from others' experiences, share your insights, and collectively brainstorm solutions to common challenges.
Don't underestimate the power of local networking; it can be instrumental in advancing your career and expanding your horizons.
Volunteer Work: Volunteering is not only a fulfilling way to give back to your community but also an effective avenue for expanding your professional network as an Executive Assistant. When you volunteer for a cause you're passionate about, you're likely to encounter like-minded individuals who share your values and interests. These connections can offer numerous benefits for both personal and professional growth:
Shared Values and Interests: Volunteering for a cause you're passionate about ensures that you're surrounded by people who share your commitment to that cause. This common ground can serve as a strong foundation for building meaningful relationships. For example, if you're passionate about environmental conservation, volunteering for a local environmental nonprofit can connect you with fellow volunteers who are equally dedicated to this cause.
Diverse Network: Volunteering often brings together individuals from diverse backgrounds and professions. You'll meet people with a wide range of skills, experiences, and perspectives. This diversity enriches your network and exposes you to different ways of thinking, problem-solving, and approaching challenges.
Collaborative Opportunities: Volunteering frequently involves teamwork and collaboration. As you work alongside others on projects and initiatives, you have the chance to demonstrate your leadership, organizational, and communication skills. These opportunities can showcase your abilities to potential employers or collaborators within your network.
Professional Development: Many volunteer roles offer opportunities for skill development. Whether it's project management, event planning, fundraising, or public speaking, volunteering can provide a platform to hone your skills in a practical context. These skills can be transferrable to your career as an Executive Assistant.
Personal Fulfillment: Volunteering often leads to a sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction. This positive outlook can spill over into your professional life, making you a more motivated and engaged professional. Your enthusiasm and positivity can attract like-minded individuals who want to collaborate with someone passionate about their work.
Networking Events: Some volunteer organizations host networking events or appreciation gatherings for their volunteers. These events provide a structured setting for you to meet and connect with others who share your dedication to the cause. Take advantage of these gatherings to expand your network further.
Referrals and Recommendations: When you establish strong relationships through volunteering, your fellow volunteers are more likely to vouch for your skills and character. This can lead to referrals and recommendations in your professional life. For instance, a fellow volunteer who is impressed by your organizational abilities might recommend you for a project management role in their organization.
Sense of Community: Volunteering creates a sense of community and belonging. These connections go beyond professional networking; they contribute to your overall well-being and sense of purpose, which can positively impact your career satisfaction and performance.
Volunteering is a powerful tool for Executive Assistants to expand their network while making a difference in their communities. By engaging with causes that resonate with you, you can connect with individuals who share your passions and values. These connections can lead to personal and professional growth, offering you new perspectives, skills, and opportunities that can enrich your career.
Remember that effective networking is not just about collecting business cards or LinkedIn connections. It's about building meaningful relationships based on mutual trust and support. The connections you make can provide insights, mentorship, job referrals, and collaborative opportunities that can profoundly impact your career advancement. So, be proactive, attend events, engage in conversations, and nurture your network over time to reap the full benefits of networking in your career.
About the Author
Richard Arnott, BA, FInatAM, FIToL, is the Director of BMTG (UK) Ltd, and the author and lead presenter of the groundbreaking, globally recognised Advanced Certificate for the Executive Assistant: ACEA® program.
Please connect with Richard on Linkedin and please also join our LinkedIn group, "The Advanced Certificate for the Executive Assistant: ACEA®," to connect with a community of forward-thinking executive assistants committed to career growth and development.