By Ruane Remy
I was once an unbeliever. I placed little stock in the powers of networking, until one night when I went looking for a romantic connection and found a business connection instead.
A few years ago, I was in the middle of graduate school studying journalism. J-school, as students fondly refer to it, left me little time for romantic pursuits. So when my mother suggested Catholic speed dating, I metaphorically rolled my eyes but went anyway. Armed with an I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this attitude, I walked into the Newman Centre, a Catholic-student hub and long-standing example of Romanesque Revival architecture in downtown Toronto.
As I sat in the dark and charming Oak Room built in the late 1800s, the floor creaked under the weight of the young men swapping seats. They took turns at getting to know the women in the prescribed three minutes or less. Then one particular gentleman sat in front of me. He was the cool, calm complement to my chatterbox persona. I was excited that like me, he was a journalism student. When our time was up, I knew I would check the “yes” box for him on my speed date sheet.
I eagerly waited at least two days for our Catholic matchmakers to email me the results of the speed date. After the first 24 hours, I gave into slight despair, thinking I was unmatchable. But I ended up matched with five guys. I didn’t have the guts to contact any of them. Only one reached out to me: the journalist.
We kept in touch and saw each other now and again. But what we lacked in romance, we more than made up for in our networking abilities. And when I say “we” in reference to excellent networking skills, I mean him more than me.
I refocused on school, thinking more about grades than my post-graduation career prospects. I made it to my last semester as I scrambled to finish my major research project. That’s when he called me about a job.
The Catholic Register, a weekly newspaper distributed across Canada, was hiring a youth editor. The journalist who held the position at the time was resigning to pursue her dream as a freelancer. She had encouraged my match from the speed date to apply. His journalism dream lay not in print but in broadcast media, and so he thought of me, a Catholic journalist studying magazine publishing. I applied with great hope and went through a rigmarole of tasks upon the newspaper’s request. The day I handed in my final project at school, The Register called. Some may call it luck. Others may call it divine providence. I call it being employed.
If it weren’t for accidental networking, I would not have edited the youth section of The Register and reported for the paper in general for over two years. As I reflect on the time that has passed since Catholic speed dating, I realize I have many networking sins to confess.
When I started J-school, a professor told my class that our classmates will likely be the ones to tell us about future jobs in the industry. I filed that bit of information away in the recesses of my memory and turned down opportunities to hang out with my classmates after class or attend far-from-subway parties late into the night. In my defence, my hour-and-a-half commute home on public transit was a legitimate deterrent, especially in winter.
I also paid little attention to industry events. To add to my regret, I didn’t go even though the cost of admission was typically cheaper for students. When I did attend an event and had the guts to introduce myself to strangers and collect their business cards, I neglected to follow up or lost the cards at home.
For these transgressions, my penance remains dwelling on all the opportunities—known and unknown—that I missed due to poor networking. My salvation: the chance to change my ways.
I am already reaping the benefits of my much-improved networking skills. I attended Chivon John’s Secrets of a Side Hustler, a networking event for those who want to start a “side hustle” in addition to their day job or want their side hustle to become their day job. At the event, I won a scholarship to learn how to build my own WordPress website with Joyanne Howell of Open Mind Marketing. She helped me launch RuaneRemy.com, my freelance-editing site.
I also keep my eyes open for networking opportunities everywhere and not just where I think they should exist. For example, I love social dancing—think pricey salsa lessons, ballroom floors, and truly having the time of my life. A gentleman from the dance scene I frequent now does my income taxes. He’s an accountant who jokes that following his financial services, he throws in a dance for free. The dance community is filled with a variety of professionals, and one day one of them may need my expertise.
I still have much to learn about successful networking, such as articulating a persuasive elevator pitch. But in my pursuit of having my networks work to my benefit, one question remains: If a single romantic endeavour helped my career, isn’t it time my career return the favour?
Ruane Remy is the youth editor at The Catholic Register and a freelance editor based in Toronto.
This article was copy edited by Nadiya Osmani.