Networking

Before I started this month’s article I decided to look up the definition of Networking which states: It is the process of trying to meet new people who might be useful to you in your job, often through social activities. [business] If executives fail to exploit the opportunities of networking they risk being left behind. Rather insensitive!

So no mention of permanent friendship and what that can do to change your life just something you do to promote your business and goodness if you are an executive not much hope at all.

I have been a local Councillor for 16 years and often attend networking events and when I was Leader of the Council it was expected of me.  I admit that I made many contacts during that period and before when I worked in the Law.  However I would like to think that I have never exploited those contacts and in fact many have become true friends.  But I have to be realistic – for some people networking is extremely important and leads to all sorts of business leads, new business and even new employees – so an essential part of business life.

I have been involved in several local charities for a long time and have never thought of these as networking opportunities and in fact I would say I have through some of these charities found lifelong friends.  Networking in communities is extremely important and very rewarding.  The third sector is packed with volunteers all with different reasons for being there and we should embrace and encourage this.

So the question posed to me by Waterfront Life is the art of networking.  I thought long and hard about this and decided that it is just your desire to meet new people, finding the same interests, listening to what others have to say rather than hogging the conversation, trying your best to make people feel wanted.  And never forget that it is not always easy to walk into a room where it appears everyone knows each other.  It is even harder if you are a female – believe me I experience this a lot!!!

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Being a leading lady

(By Liz Harsant, as published in Waterfront Life)

When I was younger I took a great interest in two incredible ladies: Jennie Churchill (the mother of Winston), who was the cornerstone of high society, and behind the scenes a political dynamo when women were afforded few freedoms; the other was Nancy Astor – the first woman to sit in Parliament. Her campaigning spirit and enthusiasm for politics was
formidable and she championed many causes on behalf of underprivileged women and children. Strangely, they were both American, but I felt their lives were something I would love to emulate.

I became leader of Ipswich Borough Council in 2004 – the first female ever to hold that position, and at the moment; the last! It was a great privilege albeit rather daunting, and a realisation that I was often the only female in the room. To fight my corner and that of Ipswich I had to toughen up. However, the friendships and interests I formed during those 6 ½ years will always remain with me. I couldn’t write this article without mentioning Margaret Thatcher, who I was privileged to meet, and when you read her biography you realise what a hard time she had to achieve what she did. Every obstacle was put in her way but her determination shone through. Mrs May, our present Prime Minister, has more
than a hard job on her plate. I sometimes wonder how differently her negotiations would be if she was a man!

People ask ‘what are the advantages of being in local politics and what do you actually get out of it?’ Well, it goes back to my two heroines’ love of politics and the desire to help wherever I can and the great satisfaction that brings. What I have discovered over my years in politics is, although times are changing, we need more women to take part in local
politics and aspire to go further. I also realise that it is never easy to enter this world when you have young children, but local government recognises this now and tries very hard to accommodate young mothers. If you love politics then don’t leave it too long: us girls are breaking through the glass ceiling, so just go for it. I would be very happy to help.