Is networking really that important?
In short, yes!
It's one of those things, you either like it or you don't. I guess it's like exercising. If you want to do it, you will, but if you don't you will find any and every excuse under the sun. I am the Speech Pathology Australia Representative for FNQ (Far North Queensland) and (most recently) the Coordinator for all Rural and Remote Reps.... so you could say it's something I like doing.
I took over the role just over three years ago now and I like to think I have built it up since then. When I first started (as a new graduate in a new area) I had big plans. I assumed that everyone would be as keen as I was and the minute I held an event they would flock to it. Not the case. Lucky for my close friends who came along, with some polite encouragement, we had a nice and intimate group of five. Now three years on with a small budget in hand (after three years of complaining to National Office) and I had over 16 speechies attend my "Networking and Nibbles" event last night. I'd like to think they all came for the "networking" part of it, but I think the complimentary nibbles (in bold on the email) may also have helped. The event went over budget, but I'm cool with that! $50 budget? What budget?
Last night there was a mix of people. Some from private practice, some working in schools (my old stomping ground - Catholic Education and Dept of Ed), some working for NDIS and a couple of floaters working in govt jobs. Each of our workplaces can be quite isolating at times; due to travel, no other colleagues, being the youngest in your workplace or just the difficulties catching up after work hours. A lot also have a great big team and work across multi-dis teams. Whatever your workplace looks like, there is nothing better than talking to others who are like minded. Who have the same issues at work. Or rather, who understand the importance of having a night off once a week.
I personally like networking to hear how other speechies are working. What their struggles are and how they overcame them. Last night in particular, I was able to help a client who was relocating to Cairns, find a speechie who was trained in a particular therapy. Yes, I could have sent out an email. But who likes their email feeds being clogged up? Instead, I asked the "Brains Trust" and got an immediate answer without tapping away on my weekend asking for help. Success.
One thing I have learnt is not to be disheartened. There is one person who has emailed me every time I have an event, apologising for not coming as they had a netball game one time, a dinner another and were flying out for a wedding this time. And that's okay. At least they emailed me. Sometimes it's just the acknowledgment of what you are doing that makes all the difference. If I was to worry about all the people who hit "delete" the minute they see my emails, what's the point? They're missing out. Not me.
So I will keep advocating for our area, hosting events and feedback to National Office as that's my role. Come if you wish. Miss out if you prefer. Either, ither.