Networking is an essential part of leadership. In this series we chat to leaders in our industry about how, and why, they network with others.
In this article we speak to Victoria MacKirdy, General Manager Organisation & Culture, Alexandrina Council.
Victoria, in your opinion, what are the benefits of networking in local government?
There are so many areas in local government where we can learn from each other and share ideas. We all have friends and colleagues that we connect with regularly, but networking through Local Government Professionals I get to meet such a diverse range of people, from right across our State and also Australia.
How has networking been of benefit to you in your career and/or in your job role?
There is no doubt networking has assisted me in my career, not only with great ideas, opportunities to collaborate but also with career opportunities I would not have had from within the one organisation.
How do you do it? What approaches, techniques and ideas for effective networking can you share?
There are no real secrets, you just need to be open, friendly and be prepared to share and support others, networking is a two way thing. People want to know a bit about you personally and professionally. It's also important if you say you will share an idea or project brief that you follow through. Remembering people and what they do and where they work is important, a genuine interest to want to learn and share.
You've recently attended the national congress - what's your approach for networking at these types of events?
The national congress is great because I get to meet people from all over Australia and from various parts of the world. It sometimes makes you realise the challenges we face in our own local government area are either the same as others or not very big at all. It's a great chance to chat to sponsors in a relaxing casual environment, test some ideas you may have and research projects and issues. Having an external bouncing board for ideas with people who understand your sector is great.
Do you think networking in local government is more effective and valuable than networking in other industries because of the essentially non-competitive nature of local government? if so, please elaborate!
Definitely, we all have the same focus of wanting to deliver great service to our communities. The only competition would be for great staff....
But speaking of other industries - What's the value of networking beyond your own industry?
We all need to look outside of our sectors for ideas, feedback and sometimes inspiration. We can get a bit bogged down in the regulations of our sector, so to look at different industries gives you the opportunity to challenge what we do and to think outside the box. Networking usually provides you with the opportunity to explain to people what you do and why.... doing this sometimes makes you realise there could be a better way.
What's the value of networking with other levels of government?
We don't do this enough I think... the average person thinks government is just government.... they don't realise the layers, having good contacts in different levels can help so much with reducing duplication, better collaboration and great partnerships with services. It's also great with sourcing funding for your local community.
How do you do it?
I attend a variety of programs and networks - this is where you get to meet different people and sectors you would not normally get to meet. I volunteer my time to speak or facilitate sessions where I can. As I said before it's a two way thing, the more you put in the more you get out of it.
Does your national board role enable networking more nationally?
Absolutely - across local government and federal government and other sectors.
What benefits does this bring?
I have made some great friends/colleagues and now have contacts in councils right across Australia. It helps me no end to understand the challenges and opportunities being faced by different States, having those contacts is great for sharing ideas and projects. I also enjoy connecting people I meet who have similar challenges and can help each other.... if I can make those contacts/connections, it's extremely rewarding.