Welcome back to HR Coffee Time. It's great to have you here. I'm your host, Fay Wallis, a career and executive coach with a background in HR, and I'm also the creator of the HR Planner. I've made this podcast, especially for you, to help you have a successful and fulfilling HR or People career without working yourself into the ground.
And today I'm really excited to be able to introduce you to Yvonne Walsh. I first met Yvonne earlier this year during a local C I P D event, and I thought she was absolutely amazing. Yvonne is one of those people you can't help but think, wow, when you hear about everything she's done in her HR career and everything she is still doing. She has had a long and successful HR career and is living proof that networking, even if you are shy or nervous about doing it, will help your career in ways you can't predict.
I am thrilled that she agreed to come on the show to share her experiences and advice with us all. I think you're going to love hearing what she has to say. Let's go ahead and meet her now.
Thank you for being here with us today. Yvonne, it is fantastic to have you on the show.
Thank you for asking me. I'm, happy to be here. Thank you.
Oh, you are so welcome. And before we get started and dive into the main part of our interview together, it would be wonderful for everyone to have the opportunity to get to know a little bit about you.
So could you introduce yourself and just tell us about your HR career and the work that you do now?
Okay, thank you. So as you know, my name's Yvonne Walsh. So I'm a, a chartered fellow of the C I P D. And I, I have been in HR for quite a long time now, about 35 years, working mainly in HR. And during that time I've worked my way up from the role of Personnel Assistant, which I started donkeys years ago, up to director level. And I've worked in a, a number of organizations including not-for-profit, higher and further education, local government, the health service, and other charitable organizations. I've spent several years now as a freelance consultant undertaking assignments both in the public and commercial sectors.
And I also hold a number of public office and regulatory roles where I sit as both a chair and a lay panel member. So my background I'd say is very much as a generalist HR professional. I've also got a number of professional memberships, which are kind of associated with my HR background.
So I'm currently the vice chair of the C I P D South London branch, and I'm also a board member of a local charity and associate member of the Civil Mediation Council, and also a member of the Tribunal Members Association. I also do when I can fit in a number of voluntary roles. So in the past I've been a volunteer with victim support and I've also done volunteering around supporting students and staff through mentoring and coaching.
And more recently, I've taken up the role as a C I P D enterprise advisor. That involves supporting young people in in schools in my local community around employability and career choices. And what else can I tell you about me? So I'm also a qualified workplace mediator. And in the past I've also spent some time as a visiting lecturer teaching HR related professional practice within a university setting.
I think that's probably a bit of a summary of the things that I've done. So at the moment, I'm still working as a freelance consultant.
Oh my goodness. Hearing all of that, Yvonne, it makes me think maybe I should have invited you on to talk about time management. I don't know how on earth you are managing to fit all that in it. I am so incredibly impressed.
Yeah. Well, obviously I it's summarizing it. I haven't done it all at the same time and some more than others. But yeah, I'm very lucky that over my career I've tried a number of things and met a number of people who have encouraged me to try lots of, of different things.
So my experience has been quite varied, which I'm very pleased about and continue to try different things.
Brilliant. And the reason that you and I met each other or the circumstances that brought us together for the first time was I was asked to give a talk at the C I P D South London branch, which you've already mentioned.
And while I was doing the talk, or the workshop, I mentioned how powerful networking is for your career. It's something I talk about all the time. I have quite a few other HR Coffee Time podcast episodes about it. But I know that when I say that it doesn't always land fantastically well. I think some people think, 'Really, does it make that much of a difference?'
Or they think, oh, it feels a bit uncomfortable. I know theoretically it sounds like it works, but I don't really want to do it. And what was so lovely was that from the audience I heard you say, 'I completely agree. Networking's had a huge impact on my career.' And it was just such a lovely moment for me, especially to have that confirmation and I think for everyone in the room as well, it really gave what I was saying, credibility and everyone knew, oh wow, we have someone here that we can talk to about it and ask her about her experiences.
So I'm incredibly grateful that you agreed to come on the show and talk about networking to a whole load more of people. It would be great if we could start off by talking about the key challenges that get in the way of people networking, because that's one of the first things I've just mentioned is I know that this idea of networking doesn't always land well.
And so it would be great to hear from you, from all of your experience, what you think some of those key challenges are that get in the way.
If I remember rightly, when you were talking at our C I P D event, I was talking about how I overcame one of the main challenges within networking, and that is if you are not naturally outgoing. And I recall I mentioned the fact that my son had said to me, 'Mum, when, did you stop being nervous going to events?'
And I hadn't realized until he made that observation that I had stopped being nervous. Because when I first started networking, I was quite nervous. And I do think that is one of the challenges, unless you are a naturally outgoing person and you don't mind going to different events and going into different venues and different settings and talking to people that you don't know.
It can be a bit of a challenge to turn up somewhere, and you, normally find that people will be in little huddles and they're talking, and you would like to get to know different people, and it takes some time to learn how to either get in with a group of people, or look for someone who looks like a friendly face and start talking and, you know, from that may come some kind of contact or an opportunity to network; maybe not. So one of the challenges is about being able to talk to people but you can learn to do that. And I, I think one of the other challenges is maybe thinking too rigidly about what networking is. It's not necessarily about going to different events or different settings and trying to talk to as many people as possible.
I have found that some of my best networking contacts have come from other settings. My network has been increased by some of the hobbies that I do. I, I'm in a walking group. I'm in a, well, I say it's a, a running group, but it's more of a jogging group, but it's a great group and both those groups I've made contacts with. And there are other things that I've done, some of the volunteering activities I've done, I've ended up with contacts, professional contacts, some who have become personal contacts, but mainly professional. So you would be maybe surprised that you can increase your network from just making contact with, with people generally, as well as formal settings where networking is a, is a formal part of the process. And I suppose it's also one of the challenges is knowing how to network. For some people it really is important to, for them to, to go along with their business cards or information about what they do because they may be selling their services, et cetera.
And therefore it's very important to try and sell. What they're selling as quickly as possible or with a number of people. I mean, for me, that's never really been my style. I, I quite like to talk to people, get to know what they're doing and you know, hopefully there's some kind of connection there.
And then we can exchange contact details and maybe touch base at some stage in, in the future. Another challenge I think is probably just not to give up. You can go to a number of events in your career, and some of them you'll think, well, I probably learned something in terms of the talk or the seminar, whatever it was.
But I, I didn't really speak to anybody, or I didn't speak to anyone who I felt connected with me, or I connected with them. And sometimes that does happen. I mean, hopefully not, and not too often. There's always usually someone there who's feeling the same as you, or people are very welcoming, but you should never give up on networking.
It's just something that is really good to practice throughout your life generally, I think. And I'd say in today's world, one of the other challenges can be about networking in a remote environment. I've spent a lot of my career networking in face-to-face events, and for me, I find that a lot easier.
But I have also had to get used to networking in a virtual world. And I think it's a little bit more challenging, but there are usually opportunities where, for breakouts or for trying to, to speak to people and finding out a little bit more about them and what you do and whatever it is that you are working on at that time, and you have to take those opportunities when you can.
But me personally, I find that a little bit more difficult, but certainly not impossible. And it is something that is gonna be with us for some time yet. So I'd say that those are probably some of my tips in terms of what are the challenges, but really it's all about not giving up and kind of just looking for opportunities in every interaction that you have actually.
I can just imagine people listening along right now, nodding away as what you're saying resonates with them. I know certainly, especially what you just talked about with the virtual world, I find the idea of virtual networking, if it's just a completely one-off event. When that first started happening, I found that really strange and felt a bit awkward about like, who should talk first?
And this feels a bit artificial. But, hopefully everyone's starting to get a little bit more comfortable with it now. And one upside, I, I've definitely noticed now that we're all more used to working virtually or in a hybrid way, is actually the opportunity to have follow-up chats with people. So even the fact, Yvonne, that we're managing to have this interview right now, you know it, it's all online.
We're not meeting each other face to face in person. I have so many more networking and Zoom coffee chats than gosh ever before, before the pandemic struck, and I think it's really helped me strengthen and expand my network. The idea of being able to follow up with people and have one-on-one chats after meeting them in perhaps a different context.
I, I totally agree with you. I think that's one way of getting the best out of remote contact really is, is because I often see that in events that I attend virtually, is that people will put their contact details in the chat. Or as you say, I will make the effort to, to exchange contact details with someone that I've met remotely because sometimes it is difficult to have a conversation.
Because there are so many people online at the same time. But definitely using Zoom or any kind of platform where you can have a, a face-to-face chat with somebody afterwards is, is a good way of following up and keeping that link and expanding your network. So it certainly isn't a barrier to, to networking and is part of the way forward.
So having focused on some of the challenges that are getting in the way of people networking, I'd love to hear what your key networking tips are for someone who wants to get started with networking or is feeling a bit nervous about it.
When I think about when I started, and I have to say that when I started networking, I, to be honest, I wouldn't have labeled what I was doing as networking.
I changed jobs fairly often in the early part of my career mainly because of promotion opportunities, and I think maybe I was a little bit restless, so I'd kind of, I went from personnel assistant officer to senior officer. And then once I became a, a manager, I obviously stayed in roles quite a bit longer in order to be able to achieve various things.
But as I went through each of those roles, I stayed connected to one or two or three individuals that I'd met in each of the roles. And those were people who would later become sort of strong individuals within my network. Obviously not everybody you meet, you keep in touch with, and sometimes it may be, it may be years before you talk to somebody, but they're all, part of your network.
So I'd say, if it's possible to keep contact with individuals that you've worked with, if you change roles, and obviously you need to have had some connection with them when you were there. I think the other thing is, is going to as many events as you possibly can. So I, I have always gone to quite a lot of C I P D events, to various talks and seminars.
Not, not necessarily just with the C I P D, with anything that, that interests me and that's. Perhaps even more possible now because there are virtual events where again, you can pick up contacts with individuals at a later stage. And when my, 'cause I mean, I, I talk about my children.
They're not children now. They're in their late twenties, so they're adults now. But when they were younger, it was more of a challenge to go to. Lots of events and I think we have to be realistic. It's all very well me saying go to lots of events. Depending on your role, your situation, you may not be able to go to lots of events, but whatever you can go to then try to go to, because it expands your learning anyway.
And the chances are that you will make contact with other like-minded people, you'll learn a little bit more about the topic. You'll probably find out something about something else that you didn't know anything about. And you might find that you can either help an individual or they can help you at some other stage in your career. And they might come up with some ideas about things that you never thought of doing, which is probably why I've ended up doing some of the things that I have done, because of the people that I've met in my network.
So I think attending events. Talking to people. Because I'm very shy. I'm not as shy now as I, as I used to be, but I was, when I was younger and talking to people was daunting. But I think talking is, is important. Smiling, somebody will talk to you if you smile and be in, be interested in what you are listening to, whoever's talking to you. And be quite sincere about following up contact. So if you exchange contact details and always try to exchange contact details if you do make contact with anyone of interest or they're interested in you. And, and follow that up. So be quite diligent about that kind of effort because I think that's important.
It's important for building your network and also building your reputation as being a very reliable individual. I do use LinkedIn, which I think is, is quite good. And any other kind of social platforms that you think are useful for maintaining contacts. At various points in my career, I've used business cards which I, I think can be useful and other kind of virtual contacts, websites, et cetera.
So whatever you think is useful for yourself, I think they're also important and, and as I say, just try and maintain good contacts. Maintain those contacts and you'd be surprised at how that can build up your, your network and your knowledge and just your interest in HR and life generally.
And have you got any tips on how to maintain those contacts?
How to keep up the contact with people, because I know that's advice that I've heard before and that I've shared with people before. And actually the first time you hear that advice, it can feel a bit difficult because you think, well, how? I don't necessarily know this person really well. How should I be maintaining contact with them?
How do I do it in a way that doesn't feel awkward? It would be fantastic to hear if you have got any insights for us or any ideas.
Well, first of all, if you've made contact with someone at an event and they said, you know, I'll send you a LinkedIn link is to obviously accept that link or send a link if you said that's what you would do. And just send a message saying it was really great to meet you.
And you know, hopefully, we'll, we'll keep in touch. In reality it may be that there isn't a reason for you to contact that person again straight away. And there isn't so you don't need to contact 'em and they don't need to contact you. But there may have been something that you discussed that you want to, to contact them about, and therefore it's worth doing it. So, one of the examples I can give you is I went to a C I P D event and somebody started speaking to me about wanting to change her career. So she wasn't strictly in HR, but she had started an HR qualification and in fact, she was in teaching.
And she, she asked if she could speak to me about how she could make that transition. And so we made the contact on, on LinkedIn and we did have a chat about it. And initially I thought, well, I'm not quite sure what advice I can, I can offer her. But while I was talking to her, I did think about another colleague I, I knew, who was much more knowledgeable about how to make that shift specifically from teaching into HR, particularly around training and learning and development.
And I connected those two individuals, and I think that's one of the beauties of networking is that if I can't help somebody, then somebody else in my network might be able to. What's important is if you've had a conversation about something that you said that you're going to follow up, the important thing is to, is to follow it up.
And if there isn't, if there isn't a reason for you to have, an ongoing contact with an individual, then just respond and say how great it was to, to meet the person. Because it, it always is interesting to, to meet someone and you know, either a conversation will result from that, or sometimes in reality you may not talk to somebody for a very long time.
And you may only ever notice that on, especially if they are on LinkedIn, you might notice that they have done something. That comes up on your feed, and I like to respond to anyone who's in my network who's done something that they've chosen to publicize that because they're obviously very pleased about something or they've seen something of interest.
And if I think it's interesting or I think, oh, that's really nice that you've done that, you've gained another qualification or you've done that, I'll make a comment on that. It might be a, a brief one. I have to say I'm not someone on LinkedIn who will write great long essays about what somebody's done or about even what I think that's because I don't have time.
But I do think it's important to acknowledge someone else's successes if you have time, and also just to, it maintains that contact.
I love the fact that you've mentioned LinkedIn. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to LinkedIn. I just think it's the most wonderful, wonderful tool. And as you were talking, it even made me think, I've been asked if I'll deliver a LinkedIn workshop for an organization.
So I actually had a call about that this morning and I thought, oh, I'll just look up some of the people who work there and see what their LinkedIn presence is like. And I saw straight away that one of the people who would likely be in the workshop with me has actually done the same career coach training as me.
So training that I did years and years ago now they've done quite recently. And so it's immediately given me when I meet them, if it's at the workshop or if it's in person or online. It's given me something to talk to them about and that's one of the reasons I think LinkedIn can be really powerful as well.
Being able to comment on other people's posts and following what they're doing. LinkedIn will even show you when it's someone's birthday. I get loads of lovely messages on my birthday from people that I don't hear from very often, but it helps me remember them and it just, puts them in my mind and I really appreciate it.
It's such a kind thing to do, isn't it? Just as much as I appreciate people commenting on posts and things, and I think part of the beauty of networking is really, it's just about talking to people and building relationships. And if you can find things that you have in common or something that you notice about the person because they're posting about it or they've done some sort of study or there's something on their
profile, then it gives you that opening to start talking to them and just building that relationship.
I, totally agree. I think I said earlier on that when I first started making contacts with colleagues, I, probably didn't label it as as networking, but it was. Because I found that after about 10 years of working in different organizations and working my way up, maybe a little bit longer than that, maybe about 13 or 14. I first decided to become a freelance consultant at that stage. Because I've done that a a couple of times in my career. And what I found was when I changed my LinkedIn profile and said that I was now an independent consultant, a number of colleagues who I had made contact with years ago contacted me about work.
Because they had also progressed in their own careers, a couple of them were running their own bigger consultancies and had a bank of consultants and some were doing other work and I was asked if I would do some mediation work because I'm a qualified mediator. I also did some other HR project work, and that was from the connecting LinkedIn with networking because I did not say 'I'm looking for work' because that wasn't the way I was looking for work, but, but they had noticed, individuals noticed that I changed my profile and approached me. And in fact, for about four years, four or five years, I did very little marketing for work because I got work from, initially from changing my profile and then from one person speaking to another person.
And so, that was my network and their network. So they were using their networks to recommend me to other individuals. So I think particularly in that instance, networking was really, really beneficial for me. And I didn't realize when I started getting to know people that, that I would be Linking in with them in in that kind of way.
And I was very, very grateful and it gave me a great opportunity to do lots of work in different parts of the country as well that I may not have necessarily worked in.
That example is so great to hear, and I think it also points to the fact that. Networking or building relationships or however we want to talk about it.
All of the groundwork that you put in place the earlier you can put that in place in your career, the better because as you've just shown us. You'd had your career for a while and you first decided to go freelance that actually all those relationships that you'd built came in to support you and, and helped you and meant you didn't have to market yourself at all for four years.
Whereas I think sometimes when people first hear about networking, they put it off and think, oh, I'll do that when I need to get a new job without really realizing actually, it's. All, all of that groundwork that you've laid by building relationships over time that kind of has a snowball compounding effect to help you later on in your career?
I think so. And I think with, depending on some, some people in your network you will occasionally have a coffee with or meet up with because you will be closer and more connected with some of your network than, than others. So when you're saying about how do you, maintain your networks, that will be one way with some individuals, but there will be other people in your network that you don't have that close a relationship with, but you still may be able to help each other at some stage in the future.
With my C I P D group that I'm part of, I often look through my network. If we are looking for somebody for a topic you know, we've decided that we'll have a a topic around equality and diversity and I'll have a look in my network. My colleagues will be doing the same. And then we'll approach individuals in our network and they may say I can't help you, or I'm, I'm not able to, I don't have enough time, but you could try this person or that person.
And that is one of the ways that a lot of the C I P D branches run their events is through contacts and from all of us using our extensive network as well as going back to the C I P D themselves to see what's on their network of, of speakers, et cetera. So it's, it's really, really useful.
And I've done so many things from my network. I've spoken at different events on all sorts of things. Just to give you another example that's of how networking has helped is my daughter asked me if I would speak to a friend of hers who was at the time at a college and he was a a law student.
And they were doing something around the benefits of volunteering and she said, oh, I think my mum might be able to help. And, and he said, would I do a talk in the college around volunteering? And because I have done some volunteering, I said, okay, I'll come and, and talk. I. And so I, I did a small talk over lunchtime about the benefits of volunteering.
Because a bit like networking, LinkedIn, et cetera, volunteering is also really good for your career, for expanding your experience. It expands the people that you know. And just in that short talk, I then met some of the academic staff. At the end of the talk, even though it had actually been organized by the students. And then started talking to them and they were talking about what I did, and then, then there was a connection there back to HR.
And then they asked me if I would do some other work for them. So again, I didn't go there to talk about necessarily HR or to get any HR work, et cetera. But sometimes your connections can expand from areas that seem unrelated to your professional career.
You just saying that has made me think I should probably have started off the whole interview by asking you how you would say networking has benefited you throughout your career. I know you've given us lots of little tidbits and examples. Can I possibly ask you the question now? Even though it would probably have been better at the very beginning.
Well, it's helped me with my day-to-day career. Particularly when I was quite operational in terms of my HR. I would normally try and join any kind of networking group within the sector that I was working within. So when I was in a further education college there was a network for HR professionals. So in terms of day-to-day work, it's always good to try and join any networks that you can because then you've got other people to speak to about issues and kind of challenges that you've got, and also just where somebody else has maybe dealt with something that you are about to, to deal with for the first time.
So that's really good. I think it's also. Networking has, has helped me to try things that I wouldn't have otherwise tried. I mean, I said I spent some time as a a visiting lecturer in a university. I would not have considered doing that if it wasn't for some people in my network suggesting that I try that. I mean, I have got a, a foundation teaching qualification, but I hadn't really used it in that kind of a way, but I really thoroughly enjoyed that experience. And as I say, with the freelance period of times that I've worked independently, I've had a lot of work in a lot of areas assisted by, my network.
And network is really good for just keeping you open to ideas in terms of your career and what you can do, and also just recognizing that it kind of ebbs and flow in terms of how much effort you can put into your network, but just always be, be mindful of it and also it will help you in your life generally.
You, you'll get ideas about other things that you can do, hobbies or just just other things. I mean, generally talking to people often does that. It just broadens the people that you meet. You learn about other people's experience. It's not always about me, it's about listening to other people. And I've helped lots of people as well.
I'd like to, to think where people in my network have come and asked me for help and advice about various things that they think maybe I can assist with. And just being realistic about what you can and can't do. I mean, obviously I can't always help individuals, but I can always point them to someone else who might be helpful.
But I think, I think it keeps you fresh, it keeps you involved and it's another educational tool I think in terms of life.
There are so many great points that you just made, But sadly.
It's time for our chat to come to an end. Before I say goodbye to you, it would be fabulous to hear what your nonfiction book recommendation is that you have for us.
I'm gonna recommend a book that isn't an HR specific book, but I recently read Michelle Obama's.
I think it says second. It might be her third book actually called The Light We Carry. And the reason why I'm mentioning this book, apart from the fact, I quite like her reflections on life in general, because it's not political, it's just about her talking about how she's managed challenges in life.
But one part of the book really resonated with me when I was thinking about networking because she's got a, a section around managing I think it's called Decoding Fear, and it's about how to, how to manage that. And she talks about being comfortably afraid. And it's about how to deal with your fear.
And the reason why I thought about this is, is about the fear that I had when I first started consciously thinking about networking and some of the challenges I had just going into a room with lots of people who all seemed to know each other and possibly lots of them appear to come from perhaps a different background from myself and, you know, and I thought, do I really belong here or not?
But sticking with it and finding that you do, you can find people that you have something in common with. And basically she's just saying that in the book. And, well, not the whole book isn't about that, but this chapter, it's about trying to avoid the situation is, if you're in a room, you've, you've had a really good talk and you want to go up to the person who's done the talk and say, that was a really great talk.
Just go and say it. You know, just go and say, that was really good. I really enjoyed that. And don't think, well, just because they're the speaker and they only want to speak to other very important people, if that's how you feel. Go and do that. And also just to talk to anybody that you want to talk to most of the time that will work out.
Once in a while, you'll, somebody won't want to speak to you, but don't let that put you off because most people do. Most people are glad to speak to you and just overcome that fear of getting to know people in whatever setting you are and just talk away. And the conversation will flow. And if.
The person you speak to seems a little bit reserved or they don't wanna speak to you, try somebody else because it will work and your network will increase. So I'd, I'd say that was it. I recommend that book recommending, overcoming your fear of networking, and go for it.
It sounds like a fantastic recommendation. Thank you so much, Yvonne, and for anyone who is interested in connecting with you, expanding their network so that you are part of it. Are you happy with that? Are you happy for people to get in touch with you?
Definitely. I'm leaving my, my LinkedIn detail, so definitely connect with me on LinkedIn and I'll be delighted to get to know you and to answer any other questions.
Fabulous. Well, that feels like a very fitting end, to encourage everybody to connect and build their network by meeting you. And I will make sure that I put a link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thank you so much for your time today.
And thank you for having me. I've really enjoyed our conversation.
I really hope you enjoyed learning from Yvonne today. It's always brilliant to hear if you found any of the HR Coffee Time episodes helpful. So please do get in touch to let me know if you decide to put any of Yvonne's advice into action. You can always reach me on LinkedIn. I'm there as Fay Wallis.
That's Fay without an E on the end. And Wallis spelled with an 'is' on the end. Instead of a 'ce'. I'll also pop a link to my LinkedIn profile in the show notes for you along with Yvonne's profile and her book recommendation. And if you have been listening to HR Coffee Time for a while. And a finding the show helpful.
I'd be hugely grateful if you could either recommend it to a friend or rate and review the podcast on whichever podcasting app you're listening to it on. Recommendations, ratings, and reviews are a big help in getting HR Coffee Time on the radar of people who haven't come across it before, and I would love to help as many HR and people professionals as I can with this free weekly show.
Thank you so much. Have a great week, and I'm looking forward to being back again next Friday with the next episode for you.