Coronavirus has changed so many things about our beloved hospitality business in such a short time. One of the many foundations of how we do business through networking events and conferences has disappeared or dramatically evolved. The connections and partnerships made through networking can be critical to success for both a personal career development and business profitability.

Our team at Dragonfly Strategists has made a concentrated effort to stay engaged with the hospitality industry in order to keep up with the rapidly changing environment. On one of our weekly interview series, Dragonfly Insights, we discussed how partnerships and networking have played a critical role in three top hospitality executive careers. Here are a few highlights from our interview with Kathleen Cullen, SVP of PHG Consulting, and Flo Lugli, founder and principal of Navesink Advisory Group. These ladies have played a tremendous role professionally and personally in my career success and life. Their wisdom is invaluable.

  1. You get what you give. Be generous with people and it will come back to you at the right time. Providing mentorship and opportunities to help others is a critical part of every person’s career. We should all be focused on giving to our industry and providing mentorship to those who are more junior than we are in our careers.
  2. It’s critical to open yourself up to new experiences and new people. Be available for conversations; be on the lookout for opportunity; and don’t shy away from transition in your career.
  3. Networking is powerful, but it can be depleting. That’s especially true for introverts. But don’t use that as an excuse. It gets easier as you do it. It can be a struggle to put yourself out there, but it pays huge dividends. Many of our most rewarding opportunities have resulted from the business networks we have built.
  4. Everyone needs people who will tell you the truth and be encouraging when you have setbacks. Therefore, it is critically important not to be defensive and to embrace constructive feedback. It only makes us better.
  5. Opportunities often come from connection. Many senior and executive leadership positions are filled by networking, not recruiting. Build your network broad and deep so that opportunities for promotion will come your way.
  6. Be inspired by others’ success. Celebrate it. Don’t be jealous and envious.
  7. Many business relationships have evolved into true long-term friendships. Often these friendships become the strength we lean upon to walk through the difficult times in our lives, both personally and professionally.
  8. Make sure you are passionate about what you do because it will show when you interact with others. If you aren’t passionate about hospitality, look for a career opportunity that does excite you and vigorously pursue it.
  9. Take the opportunity to reconnect with people you haven’t spoken to for years. This is a time in all of our lives to be sure our networks are strong and that we have connection with one another.
  10. Serve on as many boards and committees in associations as you possibly can. This is where you grow, learn, give back and often, gain your next opportunity.
  11. It is crucial to ask for the opportunity you want. They don’t often come wrapped in a red bow at your doorstep. Many of us waited for the promotion to an executive position and it never came. Then we asked and we were rewarded for asking for the job we believed we were fully qualified for. If you aren’t ready for the next step, find a mentor who will help you create a career plan to reach your next career goal and beyond.

Networking Action Items

In this new world we are craving networking and connections so much more than before because interpersonal interactions have been so limited by the pandemic. If you are one of the millions who has been recently laid off or furloughed, we encourage you to think of networking as part of your job, as much as upskilling. Reach out to your network and connect with folks from your past. The good news is that location is no longer a barrier. Almost all networking is happening virtually at the moment.

We encourage you to participate in webinars, virtual networking events, association committees and social opportunities that are available. Seek out mentors. It’s perfectly acceptable to send a message to someone new on social media or through email. Informational interviews are also a great way to get to know someone new. If you don’t have a mentor, find one. Those of us who have been in the industry for years are more than willing to support those who are less experienced. Just ask.

We’ve also found some groups on Facebook specific to the hospitality industry that offer places to network and meet other professionals in similar circumstances: Hospitality Family, Live Events Coalition, and Hospitality Industry Alliance.

Volunteering on a board, nonprofit or for a worthy cause can be a great catalyst to meet new people and expand your career options. Associations such as HEDNA, HSMAI, GBTA, BLLA and HFTP are five great opportunities. Also, check out these other resources on social distance networking and networking tips during COVID-19.

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