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INTERNATIONAL IDEA EXCHANGE

The value of (international) networking

Ross Moody
President
Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia

This article is presented as part of the partnering agreement in place between APWA and its Australian counterpart, the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA). The APWA International Affairs Committee proposes these articles to assist in the exchange of ideas between our international partners. This issue we hear from Ross Moody who has recently been elected as National President of IPWEA.

In September 2001 I was fortunate to be the beneficiary of a fellowship from the Western Australian Foundation for the Technical Advancement of Public Works Engineering to join a study tour in the U.S. and attend the APWA Congress in Philadelphia.

Despite the shocking events of September 11 that occurred midway through the Congress, the study tour was still a success in terms of the outcomes I was seeking, some of which included:

  • Participating in strategic alliance discussions between APWA and IPWEA representatives
  • Developing new contacts in the U.S.
  • Networking with international delegates
  • Networking with other Australian delegates
The first session I attended at the APWA Congress was presented by Cynthia D'Amour, a leadership consultant, and just happened to be about networking. I found the session an invaluable start to the conference and resulted in me being more proactive in meeting new people. In this article I have drawn on some of Cynthia's advice to add to my own experience.

Networking is often seen to be a tool for salespeople. However, the potential benefits go way beyond just sales as the benefit is to any professional or person in any business.

Helping you grow professionally
The benefits of networking to you in your work cannot be underestimated. I am not talking about networking for "climbing up the corporate ladder" but for you to grow in your business environment.

Some of the benefits of a well-developed network are:

  • Your creativity is increased. When you talk to your business associates, you get other points of view. By seeing the issues from different perspectives, your mind gets stimulated and new ideas are created.
  • You can solve problems with more ease. The odds are someone in your network has had a similar experience. Shared experiences create more options for solution of your problem.
  • You have a support team.
  • You have access to others' best practices. Best practices can help you cut costs and increase productivity. In other words, do more with less work.
  • You'll be able to accomplish more in less time. Having a diverse network creates a variety of minds for you to tap for answers that might otherwise take much more time to find on your own. If you become a resource in your expertise for your business associates, they will likely do the same for you.
The bottom line is networking goes way beyond generating sales leads. It's a tool that every professional needs to succeed. It is also great fun and you get to meet a lot of new people, some of whom may become your ongoing friends.

I walked away at the end of the Congress with 23 new business contacts that I will follow up with over time. You would have to say that is a pretty good result and may be a key performance indicator for future Congress attendees!

Networking goes beyond the benefits of being part of an international study tour and attending the APWA Congress. Being an active member of your own professional organisation, such as APWA or IPWEA, has wide benefits as well.

Some tips for building your network at APWA or IPWEA include:

  • Attend meetings, seminars and conferences.
  • Be early so you can meet people as they arrive.
  • Sit with people you don't know well rather than the usual group.
  • Try to find out what you have in common with new acquaintances.
  • Follow up with a new person soon after the first meeting.
  • When you offer to do something make sure you actually deliver—reliability is important.
  • Volunteer to join committees and be active.
The best place to network in our business is at your local APWA or IPWEA meetings, seminars and conferences.

I have found being active in IPWEA extremely rewarding and I have a large network of people I can share ideas with around Australia and also overseas. Not every member will aspire to be National President and you don't need to in order to gain the benefits. You just need to be an active member.

And if you want to do a bit of international networking, why not start planning your visit to Australia for IPWEA's 12th National Local Government and Public Works Conference to be held in Hobart, Tasmania from 24-27 August 2003!

Besides being National President of IPWEA, Ross Moody is the Executive Manager Works at The City of Stirling in Western Australia. He can be reached at moody.ross@stirling.wa.gov.au.