Up until early 2012, it never occured to me that I needed to maintain and in fact grow my network. I was working at a software company and didn’t see the point of it. I had a busy life - both my husband and I worked long hours and we had a young daughter. My free time (when I had it) was spent with family and friends. And then ‘life’ happened - I was presented with a severance package in January of that year. As much as I may have seen it coming, I was still hurt. I spent the next several months trying to decide what I wanted to do next and signed up for every conceivable course and program the outplacement agency offered. I was told repeatedly that I needed to ‘get out there’ and start networking with people, starting with friends, moving on to acquaintances and finally, once you’d established your own process or routine, meeting with total strangers.
As the months passed, I got to know the downtown coffee shops quite well and had my favourite spots. I also started to attend networking group meetings. One that stands out for me is the Toronto Finance Network which at the time, met on the second floor of a mexican restaurant out by the airport. Meetings were held monthly and it was an opportunity to ‘network’ with other finance people. It was at one such meeting that I met Ann Patterson and it was Ann that in turn told me about CAWEE (I joined shortly thereafter and was persuaded to join the Board as Treasurer by the President at the time, Helga Teitsson) and FEI Canada (my current employer).
The path to reemployment was not linear. There were a lot of coffee meetings, a lot of reflection and soul searching. I was surprised by the kindness and generosity of total strangers willing to make introductions on my behalf as well as stunned by the indifference and lack of support given by what I thought were good friends and family. Along the way, I picked up some helpful tips from recruiters as well like, when delivering your elevator pitch, what will you say that is unique and memorable that people will remember you? I tagged on to my elevator pitch the fact that the company I worked for won the Academy Award Oscar for their scientific and technical work on the development of Maya software (special effects). I liked the idea of people associating me with Oscar and it was certainly a unique statement so it became part of my ‘pitch’. I still use that to this day.
Months went by and while I had managed to arrange a number of ‘information’ interviews, I just wasn’t getting any traction and interviews for positions I had applied for. My natural curiosity had caused my employment history to start in finance, then move to market research and finally to marketing operations. I was a really good generalist and knew a little about a lot of things but I was not the specialist in a defined discipline and couldn’t position myself accordingly. I sometimes felt I had too much education and at other times not enough. I was also starting to think employers felt I was too old (approaching that magical age of 50) and doubted I would ever be hired again.
So what kept me going? My daughter. I felt I needed to be a strong role model for her and I kept on going.
The wonderful women at CAWEE were another source of positive energy. Those monthly breakfast meetings were a reminder to me of the vast number of companies that were out there. The CAWEE women at breakfast were a supportive and nurturing bunch who created a ‘safe’, healthy and happy environment. I looked forward to those monthly breakfast meetings and was always fascinated by some of the businesses the CAWEE ladies ran. It was through CAWEE that I was also able to diversify my network to not just accounting and finance people, but to lawyers, real estate agents, coaches, videographers, insurance specialists, relationship therapists, web designers, photographers and downsizing divas! It is what I have come to now call CAWEE style networking and is networking diversification at its best. It was then that I came to realize that networking was really about establishing relationships and planting seeds for future opportunities because you just never know...