“Have a plan when building your networks” – Networking experiences with Anna-Marie Watson

Anna-Marie Watson served in the Royal Logistic Corps for 9 years, from 2000 - 2009, reaching the rank of senior Captain and completed 3 operational tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her final posting in the Army was as the training officer for military and civil service students attending Northumbrian universities proved a stepping stone for future learning and development roles.

After leaving the Army, Anna-Marie worked on a variety of international learning and development projects and decided to specialise in performance coaching, gaining a Post Graduate Certificate from the University of Derby in 2010 and Associate Certified Coach (ACC) accreditation through the professional organisation - International Coach Federation (ICF). She founded the consultancy business Reach for More. in 2013.

“When I first left the Army I literally had no idea what networking involved as I’d relied on the military postings system to secure my next role within the Royal Logistic Corps. Aside from a core set of school and university friends, I’ve mainly lost contact with the majority of military friends colleagues when I moved job every eighteen months to two years. The idea of creating a network, managing it, contributing to it, supporting and sharing information simply wasn’t a concept in my awareness or understanding. I remember going to a couple of Liquid List events in Salisbury in 2010, wearing my military-esque tailored suit, looking very naive and probably a little desperate!

“When I moved back to the UK last summer and re-branded my performance coaching business Reach for More., I planned a more strategic two-pronged approach to networking. In one area I began by reaching out to people that could support me from a professional development point of view – i.e. other coaches who had their own businesses in the area so that I could learn more about the British market, how to position myself and what the coaching environment is like. Secondly I approached networking from a client development perspective.

“Networking can take up a lot of time and energy so if you’re going to do it properly you have to prepare beforehand. The usual military “7Ps” can be applied! Ask yourself what you want from the event, who you want to meet and even try to connect with them online before the event. It really helps to break the ice as they already know who you are and have most likely checked out your profile prior to the event.

Anna-Marie Watson

“Over the last fourteen months I’ve probably spent hundreds of hours networking attending a wide variety of events to discover which type and style worked best for me. I even invested in membership of a networking organisation though discovered over time this was the wrong client base. Still it’s been a valuable learning experience along the way and I’ve created a regular “netwalking” event in my local area to combine networking in the British great outdoors.

“Following up is also equally important as the event is just the starting point of a conversation and potential future relationship. If you think about the time involved travelling to and from networking, and financial costs it can add up to a lot of money so you need to make it worthwhile. That said, it’s impossible to follow up with everyone - there are only so many hours in the day and I believe it’s better to know a core group in your network properly rather than having hundreds of contacts that you don’t know at all."

Anna-Marie founded her performance coaching business Reach For More. and also works as an associate for Waves Training Solutions and Hintsa coaching their staff and clients.

For more information, visit www.rfmcoaching.com. Twitter @rfmcoaching