Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Mr Ambassador

Last week I became an Ambassador for the CIPD, via their Manchester branch. This is a swanky sounding title and I've been reflecting on what it means for me in the future, along with my involvement with the CIPD and such things in years gone by.

To become an Ambassador I went to an evening networking event in Manchester city centre run by the CIPD Manchester branch.

I hate networking events. But I'm going to have to learn to love them.

I don't like networking events because sometimes they feel forced. I'm a high introvert, meaning things like this don't come easily to me. The thought of talking to a lot of people, particularly people I don't know, often fills me with dread.

I just can't think in a crowded room. I get all angsty and edgy.

Does this happen to anyone else, or is it just me? I've long suspected I'm antisocial and maybe I am.

I'm not good at small talk with strangers. I can manage it with people I know well, but even at parties you'll find me in the kitchen (at the food usually) or at the edge of a room where I can see what's going on and where I'm not having to be in the middle of a crowd, even if it's people I have known for ages.

So a business networking event, with only a couple of people I have even nodded to before let alone spoken to plus loads of strangers, was a big step for me.

So why did I go?

Partly it was to force myself out of my comfort zone. I recognise I can retreat too often into my little introverted bubble, and whilst I may do all my best thinking when it's quiet and I'm alone, that doesn't necessarily mean I ought to adopt that approach all the time. I needed to grasp the nettle and get out there.

Still, though, for a high introvert like me that's a big ask.

So there I was at the Ambassadors event. It was good and I'm glad I went. I got involved in some discussions about what it is to be an Ambassador, what I could offer and what I could benefit from, and I met some lovely people like @community_mike @olivestrachan @damiana_hr @sammylubby and others.

I thought I'd find it hard, being a high introvert (have I mentioned that?) and that everyone would already know each other and I'd retreat into a corner and get my phone out, but I needn't have worried as the event was set up to encourage interaction and everyone was friendly.

Still though, any tips on networking and small talk for introverts???

So I'm a CIPD Ambassador, mainly for the Manchester branch but by extension for the entire brand.

What does this involve? Well, I get the chance to work on a voluntary basis with the Manchester branch and get involved in what they are doing, whether that be helping at events or working alongside the committee. Ambassadors are seen as future committee members so there's a chance of progressing to some more involvement in the future. I get to promote the work of the CIPD via my own networks, and develop my skills at the same time. I get to promote the benefits of CIPD membership (and upgrading) and the local branch, and can help others to engage more with the CIPD as they progress their professional journeys.

It's a great new opportunity for me and one I am hoping to make work. I can also bring sectoral knowledge to the Manchester branch and expose the branch to what's going on in the housing sector specifically. Around half of the people I met last week were involved in delivering CIPD qualifications or were in the legal profession. I found one person who had previously worked in housing but the rest had very little awareness of how housing works as a sector and some of the HR and OD issues that are present in the sector.

I can maybe use this blog, and my Ambassador activities, to widen the CIPD's understanding of what is happening for HR professionals in housing, and maybe help HR professionals in housing develop themselves by getting involved in wider CIPD activities and exposure to other sectors.

And at the same time I get to build my own networks.

My involvement with CIPD goes back to 1998 when I first started studying the Certificate in Personnel Practice. I'd been encouraged to do the qualification by someone I worked with at ICI in Runcorn who was at that time heavily involved with Manchester branch, and I went with him to a few committee meetings and events. At one point I was lined up to take on a committee role myself but it went wrong somehow.

Someone, either at CIPD HQ in Wimbledon or within Manchester branch, pointed out that I wasn't a full CIPD member at that point and was still studying, and barred me from joining the committee. At the time I felt this was unjust and more than a bit elitist, and took my ball home for several years after that. I wouldn't have anything to do with Manchester branch or the CIPD outside the necessary interactions on my studies.

Then I qualified. And became a full member. And then I started delivering CIPD qualifications myself part time, and got a job in Manchester city centre all of which brought me into regular contact with the CIPD and Manchester branch again.

By then I'd calmed down, but by then the chance to get involved in the committee had gone.

In my various roles delivering CIPD qualifications I've promoted the benefits of membership and upgrading to students. The CIPD has been good to me over the years, and though I do moan about the higher membership fee for Fellows now and again I do feel I get value from it. It's helped my career and I hope it continues to do so. I hope also I can help a few others along the way as an Ambassador.

Till next time...

Gary