On 17th January, I was given the opportunity to listen to a presentation by a lady who came into our school to talk about networking. As we were not provided with much information beforehand, many of the girls who attended (it was a targeted event, due to the fact that it was the preliminary material for the Ladies Lunch Club Networking Meeting) were sceptical about the information we were going to receive - we were so wrong.
Despite the fact that we had to practise shaking hands (a task I do not particularly enjoy, mainly because of the abnormal temperatures my hands often reach, for some unknown reason) everything that we were told inspired me to want to go on to do more with my life - whether it be in business terms or otherwise. It sparked something that should hopefully stick with me forever: an encouraging nod towards many possible career paths and an opening to a new opportunity.
From its first description, the Ladies Lunch sounded as if it could be my absolute worst nightmare - chatting to strangers about myself...oh the joys! I chose to try it; to take the risk, because you'll never know what it's like until you try eh? My friend even said something afterwards along the lines of ' you're not seriously considering it, are you?' And yes, my friend, I am. She couldn't believe it, and honestly, neither could I.
In order to go on the trip, we had to produce our own LinkedIn profiles, a task that I found surprisingly pleasing. Putting in the details about the places that I have volunteered, and the achievements that I have earned, makes them seem even more worthwhile. It made me feel as if I will have a brighter future if I put the effort in now, as well as the fact that I am now exposed to a much wider variety of career options, many of which I didn't even know existed!
So, on 7th February, myself along with the 4 other chosen students, embarked the minibus on a journey to the lovely venue in which the event was taking place. I'm sure we were all just a little bit disappointed about our age, as we were all too young for the wine tasting session there! But after a few moments coming to terms with the surroundings, we were all immersed in the talking. I think we were all mistaken with the myth that networking is all about building business relations - it isn't. It brings people together, allowing communication between a variety of individuals and a chance to get to know new people.
When we were given the guest list, a day prior to the Ladies Lunch, I have to say I wasn't the only one that went 'I don't need to speak to anyone here, I don't want to be a solicitor!' (about half of the ladies going were working in the law industry). Yet when you're there at the event, it's brilliant to talk to people from a vast range of companies, as it's definitely opened my eyes to new jobs that I otherwise would have immediately dismissed as not being for me.
As it was a lunch event, there had to be food involved. And it was incredible. The dish served was more than enough of a portion size and it was so good, the 5 of us finished it. We were encouraged to sit apart from each other, in order to talk to some new faces, an idea I loved. After the first course, various people moved round the table a couple of seats, allowing conversations with even more of the ladies that attended. My collection of business cards has grown considerably because of this!
This Ladies Networking Lunch has empowered me more than I ever thought it would. It has opened a new path to freedom: it has allowed me to conquer my anxiety. Previously, this kind of thing would be stuff dreams were made of for me, to be able to not miss out on great opportunities like this one because of the anxiety my brain has often been riddled with. Nobody expected me to go, not even myself. And that may be the sole reason for my decision to go. I think it is just an excellent example of how things do get better, it can be managed and it's worth it in the end.
It was an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed and hope to take part in more like it in the future. Many thanks to everyone who was involved, especially those who have contacted me since the event, the organisers of the occasion, and the Careers and Participation Co-ordinator from my school that allowed us girls to go to this lunch - I am so unbelievably grateful.
I hope you will all take as many opportunities you can in life, and never give up hope for conquering those obstacles that are in the way of your journey.
Hannah Crouch – Year 11