Business is a concept that probably comes to mind more often than teaching when we think of networking. I remember being in grade 11 business administration class and hearing about it from a guest speaker who worked in finance: “networking is one of the most important things you can do in your career.” I understood that it broadly meant meeting the right people and making connections. Once you built that network, opportunities would magically appear.
What confused me was how. How do you even get into a room with people that can help you advance your career? What do you even say to build a relationship? Aren’t such relationships inauthentic?
As I entered my career in education, it occurred to me that networking might not even be relevant to my career choice. I got my first job as a supply teacher by submitting a resume and interviewing, and a permanent job through the same process. I figured, this is it! I’m done! No need to worry about networking!
I Was Wrong About Networking
Becoming a more experienced teacher helped me to realize how I wrong I was. In fact, the network that I ended up building throughout my career ended up becoming a critical part of my professional growth.
Networking isn’t just about finding people who will be “useful” or who have influence that can work in your favour. It’s also about locating expertise, building professional relationships, finding career mentors, and getting your own name out there. While being an educator would seem to be a fairly straightforward profession, there are actually lots of different career pathways you can choose, even within your own board.
Which brings us to the next question: how do build your network, especially as a new teacher?
The first and easiest way is to join events with other schools. Professional learning sessions, for example, are great ways to broaden your professional network. While it can be tempting to stay with the people you already know during a table activity, step out of your comfort zone and meet teachers from other schools. The same goes for social events at your ETFO local, or conferences. ETFO also hosts excellent professional learning sessions and conferences, where you can connect with teachers at other boards.
In my own experience, I have found that some of the best networking opportunities come from joining initiatives like writing teams or workshops. At one STEAM based workshop, I met another teacher in my board and we planned a joint event between classes at our school. It was exciting, and experience we could reference in job interviews and on our resumes.
Why Is Networking Important as a Teacher?
Over time, networking can lead to so many new experiences, opportunities and relationships. I love that I have colleagues that have moved to other positions in and outside the board, and that I can turn to them to ask questions about how they navigated their careers, what challenges they encountered, and the successes they found in new contexts. I enjoy the fact that I can find familiar faces and names at the events I go to.
Conversely, I also enjoy being part of other people’s networks. It makes me happy that I can share my own insights and experiences with others, and be a resource in areas that I have built capacity.
So the big takeaway here? Make time to network. You will see the results pay off in dividends throughout your career!