Developing Your Network

Silhouettes of business people networking with digital overlay

In part 3 of our series Developing Future Leaders we are looking at the importance of developing our personal network, the benefits of actively increasing the space and value we hold within our industry arena, and how social media can help.

As previously discussed there is much to be said for the organisational support structures we use to encourage and develop the career pathways and skill sets of our future leaders as we seek to equip them for the rocky road ahead. Without this use of opportunity and directive support it would be calamitous for employees to attempt to transcend to higher ranks and harder to learn the vital skills needed to successfully take the sector to where it needs to be in order to survive, not just adequately, but to uphold and secure its future in supporting our society and local communities. As Green Paper consultations continue on the recommendations for the direction of social housing in the UK it is becoming glaringly evident there is a not only a clear need for defined roles which reflect a growing emphasis on tenant involvement, but also a comprehensive understanding of the policies and legal frameworks being implemented, demonstrable commercial acumen, a clear technical knowledge base and managerial, soft skills that also reflect the social housing culture.

In correlation to this, those who are hungry for these emerging new leadership roles and have an appetite to engage, commit and be a part of the change can take definitive steps to enhance their prospects and attain desired goals within their chosen field.

Show up, share ideas and listen to success stories

Networking is something currently being vastly undervalued among our younger up and coming talent, which can often open doors to some of the most current and sought-after opportunities within the sector. As well as engaging with those already established who have a wealth of knowledge, experience and advice to share, networking can also be a hotbed of creativity, giving birth to fresh ideas to take our organisations forward and helping to shape the future direction of policies, projects, plans and events.

Greenacre were proud to have been involved in setting up the recent Golden Ticket Networking Event in Colchester on September 13th, along with Sara Thakkar and Anna O’Halloran, which brought together 100 women from various housing sector industries, at different stages of their career pathways, from entry level to CEOs, to celebrate, collaborate and inspire one another to attain individual and collective goals. The atmosphere was absolutely buzzing and left many attendees on a high, feeling inspired about their future pathways and aspirations. Our three guest speakers Chyrel BrownRebecca Clarke and Anna spoke at rotating workshops to highlight their journeys, offer advice and guidance, and bring some practical knowledge and experience in the field of developing sought after leadership skills.

Make use of mentoring and create your own space to grow

We were lucky to have Chyrel Brown, Director of Residential Services at Hyde Group and an independent panel member at Network Homes Ltd, share some snapshots of her journey and essential advice for those unsure of how to take their career to the next level. Chyrel, who has over 16 years social housing experience and has held senior leadership positions at Circle Housing and The Hyde Group, is participating in the Leadership 2025 programme which is aimed at developing and creating opportunities, mentoring and guidance for future leaders in the housing sector. Her team was also recently nominated for the Housing Heroes Awards. We asked Chyrel what’s the best advice she would give future leaders that she wishes she’d been told:

·        Be yourself – I spent a lot of my early career chasing roles, not really being clear about my direction or having a plan. I met a lot of great managers and leaders along the way and tried hard to replicate them, but in all honesty, I found I simply became a poor imitation of them. I just wanted to be a manager like them, without really understanding why or how to be a great manager, let alone leader. Once I gave up on chasing being someone else and tried being myself I started to progress and really become the leader I realised I wanted to be for other people.

·        Have an independent perspective – I have an amazing coach and along the way, I’ve grown a valuable network. I’m continually meeting great people that provided me with fantastic feedback and support, in fact without their encouragement I wouldn’t be as confident as I am today!

·        Speak your truth – Don’t be afraid to find the courage and the space to speak your truth and share your values. Make time to know and value who you are and do not be apologetic of your worth. I’ve had lots of great opportunities come my way because of the power of the network, people don’t give you opportunities because they like you, they give you opportunities when they learn about your skills and qualities.

·        Be kind to yourself! Like everything practice makes perfect, or almost which is good enough!

Engage on Social Media

There’s no getting away from it, in order to stay up to date, connected and engaged with your peers, you need to be on social media. Regular, relevant content and active engagement with your network is now an essential part of our daily work schedule and its important to create at least a small amount of space and time each day (or at least each week) developing this aspect of your profile and personal brand.

Adam Clarke, Assistant Housing Director at Broadland Housing Group and Board Member at CIH Futures, is an avid social media networker and is a master at building engaging content, online calls to action and reaching out to share valuable, thought provoking insights into current housing sector issues with those across his network. We asked Adam why it’s so vital for our future leaders to spend time actively developing their personal network, and how using social media has helped him to build his reputation and a strong personal brand among his peers:

“Developing my network has been superbly rewarding and satisfying, aside from being beneficial to my career. I’ve found social media, particularly twitter, to play a powerful role in connecting with people and building my professional network.

Networking has facilitated my contribution to conversations, enabled me to participate in great events and take up exciting opportunities to be involved in sector shaping groups such as CIH Futures. Whilst all of that is brilliant, most importantly I’ve connected with some exceptional people, who have become friends for life. What a marvellous unintended consequence!

If you’re not already networking and harnessing the power of social media, what are you waiting for? I’m @adclarkie let’s get chatting.”

Greenacre will be taking part in a CIH Futures Twitter takeover on Monday October 15th (what have they let themselves in for!) so here’s your chance to get involved and start building your personal network. Head to @CIHFutures and @GreenacreRec and give us a follow. We want to hear your questions, thoughts and insights on Career Development within the sector and will be engaging across social media throughout the day, so come and join us!

Alma Sheren is Head of Marketing and Communications for Greenacre Recruitment, and researches/writes articles with the team on Leadership, Human Resources, Change Management and the challenges and transitions currently facing the UK housing sector.