Networking? It’s just a ‘jolly’, isn’t it?
My inspiration for this piece started as a conversation at the PMG Conference 2016 gala dinner. Before attending the conference, I had thought I would be writing about the thought-provoking presentation on 3D printing in custom seating, as this is an area of huge interest to me; or, perhaps, the parallel session on pressure care which is equally important to me. However, it was after a few conversations during the networking sessions that I felt truly inspired to return to work and push myself forward and out of my comfort zone.
What is networking anyway? Networking is defined as a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups with a mutual interest. It is a two-way and ever-evolving experience driven by, and unique to, that individual. I am not inferring in any way that there is no benefit to attending lectures and seminars; I am simply stating that I believe the benefits of networking may be underestimated.
The keynote speaker for the first session of the first day was Ade Adepitan. He recounted to us his experience of contracting polio as a baby in Nigeria, and how this began his journey to where he is today. I was captivated, not only by what he was saying, but also by his relaxed, witty and engaging presentation style. As someone who has always shied away from public speaking, I thought it was fantastic that he felt confident talking to this large group of people in such a dynamic way. During the break Ade made himself available to talk with attendees, and I told him that I thought his presentation was well-delivered and inspiring, especially to someone who is very nervous of public speaking. His advice was to take inspiration from his talk, and to keep pushing myself forwards to do things that were difficult; if I failed, then that should make me try even harder. It was just a conversation, but for me it was a very powerful one.
Later on that evening, we had the gala dinner to attend. Just a social affair one might think. However, for me it was far more than that - I got into conversation with a colleague who has vast wheelchair service knowledge and is also a PMG committee member. During this conversation, I became encouraged to think about my future as a professional and as someone working within the wheelchair service. I mentioned to her my conversation with Ade earlier in the day, adding that I would like to do a poster presentation at next year’s conference, but would not consider standing up and presenting. I was told that confidence was my barrier and that I should push through my comfort zone for the sake of my career progression. I left that evening and, indeed, the conference itself, thinking, “Do you know what? Maybe I’m going to do this!”
I would like to say that the seminars relating to the world we work in every day were invaluable, not just to improve knowledge but also to reduce feelings of isolation and help share solutions. They are, however, a passive experience, and we can only take so much from them. The exhibition is the perfect opportunity to update knowledge on the latest equipment where we wouldn’t normally find time in the busy working day.
However, I believe that the power of networking with experienced colleagues should be recognised too. There are numerous professionals out there who are confident of their skills, knowledge and ability, but I’m sure there is an equal number of others who, like me, have a valuable contribution to make but just need the confidence boost and a push in the right direction. When we don’t always have time to encourage one another in the working environment, what a wonderful and valuable opportunity the PMG Conference is to reach out to everyone.
So, having returned to the real world of clinics and waiting lists, how do I feel now? Those two conversations alone have improved my confidence within the workplace, and I am investigating the option of a poster presentation for next year. The rest, as they say, remains to be seen……watch this space!
Photograph is of Ade Adepitan with visitors to the Go Kids Go stand at PMG Conference 2016. Photography courtesy of Suzie Hunt.