Networking successfully could mean the difference between scooping a job and fading into obscurity. Andrew Doherty asks Emma Limebear, conference and events executive at World Travel Market, about her top tips for making an impression
The thought of socialising with a room full of strangers may strike fear into the hearts of many; however, it is a situation many in the travel industry regularly encounter.
Networking is considered one of the most important aspects of professional development and successfully making contacts could be the difference between landing a future job and falling off the radar.
Emma Limebear, conference and events executive at World Travel Market (WTM), sponsors of TTG’s Tomorrow’s Travel Leaders programme, shares her tips for networking success and how it has helped to forge her career path for the better.
Why should you network?
Networking has been the beginning of several professional relationships for me; it has generated opportunities for business through partnerships and research, but also for personal and professional development, which is of utmost importance throughout your career.
I definitely support the value of good networking skills. Many opportunities could be missed, or people misunderstood, if you lack the fundamental skills to explore and develop potential prospects.
Even at 16-years-old, I had the opportunity to work at The Landmark Hotel on a two-week work experience placement. I wasn’t exactly helping with their future marketing plans, but I left a good impression and I connected with my colleagues on LinkedIn. My manager at the time then moved on to Hilton and by keeping in contact over several years, when an opportunity came up at Hilton, I interviewed for the role and stood in better stead.
Ultimately another job opportunity prevailed and I didn’t take the Hilton role, but I would never have had that choice if I hadn’t maintained the relationships I built early in my career.
Networking has benefited me here at WTM too. In 2013-14 I was on placement at the company. I went back to university to finish my degree before stints working at STA Travel and Warner Bros. Studio Tour London. Yet the contacts I made and the relationships I fostered when I was on work experience at WTM, resulted in me being offered the chance to work in the conference and events team.
In its very nature the travel industry’s network is global; however, it is surprising how local it feels and the reality is that you will likely come across the same people again at many points in your career.
How can you develop your networking skills?
Approaching someone senior doesn’t necessarily mean you get more value from the conversation. People at more junior levels are often great for sharing ideas, collaborating across businesses or discussing your experiences to date.
Introducing yourself with open body language and a smile, even if you are nervous, helps to encourage the other person to open up about themselves and their business. I wouldn’t focus on talking about yourself and the company you work for either. Initiate a two-way discussion. Never interrupt another conversation – first impressions are key.
Building strong professional relationships fosters loyalty as you develop trust, which is vital in business, both in your internal team and in your wider network. If you leave a good impression it will help you in the future – everyone knows the power of word of mouth.
People mistakenly use networking events to “sell” – I’m not sure anyone wants to be in a room full of people selling to each other. Networking is about relationship building and development, not about competing.
To stand out from the crowd be authentic and be yourself. If you know the guest list then do some research about the companies that you’re looking to speak with. How is their business progressing, have they recently had any new developments or how did its representative’s career progress?
Following up on your discussion helps people remember you too; send a quick email or connect on LinkedIn. I have always tried to keep the conversation going across time too, maybe once or twice a year. Don’t just contact them when you are in need of something.