The Awkward Girl’s Guide to Networking

Well, here we are – I’ve blinked again and three weeks have gone by, or rather, November seems to have disappeared at the click of a finger. It seems crazy to think that last time I checked in, boxer dogs weren’t jumping on trampolines and reality TV show hosts weren’t soon to be taking presidency, but there we are. Is it any wonder the time has passed so fast? This week has been particularly busy for Katie Lingo, as I’ve been networking!

York Business Week

melissa talagoLocal residents and business-savvy folks may have been privy to York Business Week, which took place between Monday 14th and Friday 18th November. As a relatively new business in the York area, I thought I would do my best to get involved and meet some of those lovely entrepreneurs out there. I did so by signing up to a couple of evening networking events, and I won’t forget them in a hurry.

The first was Start Up and Freelance Journeys by York-based Everyday People. As the name suggests, a lot of people there were lone wolves, but this didn’t make me any less nervous. Thankfully, when I turned up, I caught the eye of a designer with whom I’d worked whilst freelancing for a magazine some years ago. He introduced me to the organiser and two gin and tonics later I was merrily chatting away. I met some characters, including another freelance writer and a lady who wanted to run her own cat café!

Networking Talks with Freelancers

chris kenworthyLater came the talks, and I learned a lot from Melissa Talago, who runs Campfire Communications, and wasn’t afraid to show us pictures of her in “mummy mode.” She made us remember that we are all human and can’t be Superwoman 100 per cent of the time. Up next was Chris Kenworthy, author of The Human Freelancer, and genuinely one of the most likeable chaps I have ever met. It can be so easy to lack confidence when you’re going it alone, but as a fellow writer, he reassured me that with talent and passion, anyone can be successful. We had a good chat afterwards (perhaps one too many gin and tonics by this point) and I hope to bump into him again at future networking events.

The Yorkshire Mafia Drinks Evening

On Wednesday, I headed along to a drinks evening with The Yorkshire Mafia – drinks being the operative word here. I made the mistake of turning up a little late so a lot of the snacks were gone, much to my chagrin, but at least the remaining guests were feeling a little more “socially lubricated,” shall we say. Speaking of which, I spoke to a gentleman who was very passionate about his beer tours, plus some folks in finance and business consultancy.

Perhaps most embarrassing however, on both Monday and Wednesday, were my encounters with graphic designers. Now, I was a little late to the party finding out about York Business Week, so business cards were a rather last minute affair. I’ve never said I was a designer. My game is words, not pictures. That said, I had to have some way of leaving an impression with my fellow businesspeople, so I very quickly mocked up some shameful business cards. On Paint.

katie lingo business cardAs you can see, I am definitely not a designer, and so I rather tentatively gave out these embarrassing excuses for business cards to well-prepared, design-savvy professionals. It was particularly excruciating handing them out to graphic designers, but in the end (and after more gin) they turned out to be quite an ice breaker. Many people told me: “They’re not that bad!” or “At least I’ll remember you!” Thanks for humouring me guys – I appreciate it.

Sub-standard stationery aside, I learned a lot from my experiences and hope to form some long-lasting relationships with those I met at York Business Week. I still remember a freelance journalism course I attended in 2012, whose sage advice was “Never eat at a networking event – the last thing you want to do is try to sell to someone with spinach in your teeth.”

My advice? Keep your head up, drink gin, and for the love of God, use Vistaprint.

Katie Lingo
by Katie Lingo
20th November 2016