Can study be good for business?

I think we all know that as a PhD candidate, of course I think the answer to the question is yes!  There’s a lot more to my views on this and how they were formed though.  I’ve made some mistakes in balancing work and study over the years, but here are some of the reasons why I think study and business support each other, and some tips and tricks to make it work.

Reasons

  1. If you work in another field, learning theory will improve your practice and vice versa.

I was fortunate enough to have my Masters paid for by me then employer, the Civil Service.  As a front line worker in JobcentrePlus, it was not until I started examining policy formation and strategy that I began to comprehend:

  • how my tiny cog fitted in to the machine which is public service,
  • how that related to the political party in power at the time,
  • how the Civil Service keeps its political neutral role while advising its party political masters, and so much more.

Nobody is saying that the only study you should do is work related, but it can help with your relationship with the office.

2. If you work in education, continuing to study, and being open about it, helps your students trust you.

As a study skills tutor, I hold some teaching qualifications, of course, but I find that talking about my own challenges and how I have overcome them builds a sense of trust with my students.  Got a deadline?  So do I?  How can we both meet them?  Don’t understand the brief?  This is how I analyse mine – are these techniques useful to you? Got a bogie module?  Have I ever told you about my relationship with Economics and Governance?  (No, really, somebody ask me – I’ll happily tell you how I slew that dragon).  Being a student yourself creates a sense of rapport with your students that nothing else can forge, and you will both reap the rewards.

Tips

  1.  If you are studying something relevant to your job, make sure your colleagues know about it.

I learned this one the hard way.  I initially kept my Masters studies to myself and was accused by several colleagues of being both lazy and privileged.  How dare I, as a single white woman under 40 be working part time?  What gave me the right to laze around the rest of the time?  They had made a wrong assumption that I was a lady what lunched, who played at work to remove the boredom.  They had missed the part that when I wasn’t in the office I was studying, in lectures, or travelling the four hours each way to get to Uni. One stand up row later, a now educated colleague became the first to volunteer to take part in the research for my dissertation.  My point is, you may inspire respect, a new reputation for yourself or even somebody else to go and learn a new skill.

  1. (A tip) Organisation is key, as is a touch of ruthlessness.

In the 21st Century, time is a precious commodity. Taking on study is only going to make it more precious.  This is a key example of working smarter, not harder.  You will need to get your family on board.

If you are already studying and your family are not supportive, now is the time to sit down and have a full and frank discussion with them.  What are the benefits to them of you getting this qualification?  What practical skills can your other half/young ones/house mates learn or take over that will help free up your time?  Batch cooking, putting their own washing away, dusting and hoovering, these are all gender neutral tasks. It is important that you carve out time for your study then guard it with your life! If work is a more conducive environment for study than home, go in early, or stay late (clear this with your employer first). Make sure that you don’t suffer from study guilt – you do matter and the more you prioritise your study and empowerment, the more positive role model you become for those around you.

In conclusion, then, if you’re thinking about studying while you work, get on and do it, but make sure you have your loved ones on board before you start.  If you’re already studying and have got a bit stuck in the mire, I understand, why not give me a ring and see if I can help?

The Changing Face of Business Networking

 

With the many restrictions, due to COVID-19, across the country, business networking has had to change.

Back in the day when I started my networking journey I physically went to small, local breakfast meetings. As my experience and confidence grew, I tried networking groups that had multiple meeting points across the country. Here I found the format very similar to the more localised groups but, in some cases, the companies were outside my scope. For instance, the IOD (Institute of Directors) is a great group of business people but bigger than my then very small telecoms and IT business could expect to do business with. Likewise, a networking group that specialises in the smaller, arts, crafts, and home based companies may also not be suitable for some businesses and services.

It is extremely important to know your demographics when doing business networking. A great pitch is not enough if you cannot deliver the goods.

In todays market there are still a few socially distanced groups meeting to have breakfast together, but on the whole most groups have gone onto internet platforms like Zoom, sadly without food ☹

So, what do you need to know about attending business networking groups?

Firstly, research the groups available to get one that’s a good fit with your chosen market and yourself (some groups will allow you one or two tasters). So for me, after attending a few other Zoom networking meetings (other virtual platforms are available), I found my home at the business networking group called Twilight https://www.i-nutrition.co.uk/twilight-networking-events/. One of the advantages of this group is the option to turn up 15 minutes early and meet with two other businesses in a small group room. This also helps in getting known and knowing others and judging how inclusive and friendly the networking group might be.

Secondly, check how much it will cost you to join your preferred networking group. Some groups charge a membership fee plus a meeting fee, whilst others only charge you for the meetings you attend, as with Twilight. To join this week’s meeting, click here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/twilight-networking-zoom-meeting-thursday-22nd-oct-2020-from-545pm-tickets-108749354246

Thirdly, prepare your pitch. Sixty seconds is the normal amount of time allowed. The format could be similar to this; your name, the name of your company, and what your company provides. If there’s a specific type of client you’re looking for this would  be a good time to ask. Always be polite, try to avoid acronyms as most people don’t know what they mean, and most importantly avoid the words; just, should and umm! It is also helpful if you can speak without reading from a script. Oh! And smile 😊 Many groups also have a 10 minute slot for one business, at each meeting, to give a longer explanation of what the company does. This can usually be done with or without PowerPoint slides. You will need to let the group leader know that you would like to do one of these slots as there may be a waiting list.

Next think about the 1-2-1s you would like to have. This is the most important part of business networking. Look for companies that you feel you have a mutual two way link with. It is not just about selling your products, it is also about helping others sell theirs. It might not be a product you require but it may be a product one of your clients might benefit from. Though I am relatively new to Twilight, I have already had a couple of 1-2-1 meetings, and have four more booked into my diary. Zoom also has a chat function which Twilight posts into their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/twilightnetworking making it easy to connect on LinkedIn and Twitter as well.

And finally, support your group and their leaders. Invite other businesses along, promote using social media platforms and blogs, and if there are any problems deal with them privately with the relevant people, never, ever in public, as this will reflect badly on you and your company.

It would be great to see you at one of the Twilight meetings I attend fortnightly http://www.twilightnetworking.co.uk/ (the next meeting is on Thursday 22nd October at 5:45 PM) It is easy to book on (see Eventbrite link above). It only costs £5 per meeting, with no additional fees. The group is light and friendly but serious about doing business.

Joyce CoomberSewell