Guest Speaker Series: Joanna Shea on Networking & Building Professional Relationships
On May 27, Joanna Shea, the founder of 3P Energy Consultants, connected with UBC’s Master of Engineering Leadership and Master of Health Leadership & Policy students to share her expertise in building strong professional relationships.
Shea expressed and emphasized how critical relationship building is to creating and maintaining a professional network, as well as to one’s long-term success.
Long-term professional relationships are the goal of networking; everyone should begin to network now—if they are not already actively networking—to connect with people they hope to work with and companies they hope to work for.
MEL & MHLP students were introduced to three general groups of contacts:
First, operational contacts include classmates and current or past colleagues. These relationships should be maintained, as they may connect you with jobs in the future. Second, personal contacts include family and close friends. Shea warned students not to overlook these contacts: personal contacts are a strong source of support and may even connect you with strategic contacts. Third, strategic contacts include individuals who work where you are striving to work. These relationships are the most difficult to create and nurture; these relationships require you to put in the time and effort to develop them.
Shea noted that students should not view strategic contacts as “targets.” People can tell when you are connecting with them for the simple motive of wanting a job. Students were encouraged to treat strategic contacts as people they hope to maintain a long-term relationship with.
Further, it is valuable to keep in mind that networking is a process wherein you may meet people, but struggle to create a strong connection. If you feel a weak connection with a strategic contact, Shea makes clear that it is okay to move on from them and focus on building relationships with people that you feel a better connection with.
Those individuals with whom you feel a stronger connection will be more engaged in wanting to help you along your career path.
Shea shared some practical advice with students on how to cultivate strong professional relationships from the beginning. She advised that students might begin a new relationship by asking the individual if they might get to know them better over a coffee chat, Zoom session, etc. in a manner that is not focused on trying to get a job. For example, asking a connection if you could help them with a personal project, or offer them something of value in the form of personal expertise or a connection to someone whose expertise might be useful for them.
Some tips to keep in mind when networking:
- Only attempt to connect with a new individual two to three times. If the individual does not engage, it is best to move on.
- During this time of less social interaction, students were encouraged to cold call companies to generate more connections.
- Stay in-tune with your body language. Adopt a power stance that makes you feel and look confident.
- Maintain a friendly tone when conversing with others. Moreover, showing clear gratitude is key to maintaining relationships.
Shea concluded her presentation by emphasizing how networking should be somewhat organic.
If you meet someone and form a genuine connection, then you should continue to build that relationship by checking in with them regularly and following up with them after your interactions so that you remain memorable.
UBC’s Master of Engineering Leadership students are trained not only to be experts in their technical or clinical field, but also given the tools to develop their interpersonal and professional skills so that they might excel in a business setting.
Readying to kickstart your future career? Find the Master of Engineering Leadership or Master of Health Leadership & Policy professional graduate program that will give you the resources to achieve your goals.