Norrisa Gayle and I met at the Rooms101 event in London last month. You couldn’t miss her infectious energy and broad smile, she was working the room of over one hundred hospitality professionals like a champ! Saying hello to everyone, getting contact details, and making conversation…she even got a shoutout from one of the organizers of the event. Would you believe this was her first networking event EVER? It all started with a post on Linkedin…and in less than a month she was at the event where we met, pressing the flesh, and walking away with connections that have led to job offers and more. We chat with Norrisa about how she went from networking newbie to expert!
Where are you from and what is your current role?
I’m from southeast London, my heritage is Jamaican, and my grandparents were part of the Windrush generation. I was raised by a single mum and I’m now a single mum to two boys, so I am used to being busy! Keeping my family safe and cared for has led me to do various jobs, including working in hotels and starting my own restaurant. Running my own business I realized there was so much I didn’t know. Instead of years of trial and error, I decided to go back to school at the University of East London to get my bachelor’s in Hospitality Management. I am now in my third and final year of the program.
Tell me, how did you end up at Rooms101 getting a shoutout from Kieron “The Boy” Bailey?
It all started with a LinkedIn post. As part of my dissertation to graduate, I posted on LinkedIn that I was looking to interview hotel owners and operators, to investigate the challenges going forward to create and maintain a sustainable workforce within the industry. One of my professors, Lisa Wyld, Director, Institute of Hospitality and Tourism and Head, Innovation and Management at the University of East London, shared my LinkedIn post. It was seen by her connections and I got many replies. One was Kieron “The Boy” Bailey, who happened to be organizing the Rooms101 event and invited me to come along as this was one of the main topics of the conference.
It’s one thing to get a free ticket to an event, but you were workin’ it, girl! Where did you learn to be so smooth?
LOL. Would you believe that was my first networking event?
Seriously? No way!
Yes, here is what happened. I was thrilled about the opportunity to attend Rooms101 but literally had no idea what to do! So I asked another professor, Zoe Adjey. Between Zoe and Lisa Wyld, they gave me three excellent tips.
Dress: smart casual, nothing too matchy, matchy. Make sure your outfit is comfortable, no high heels. Keep your hair and make-up simple, you want yourself to shine through, not your outfit.
Introduce yourself: walk up and say I’m Norrisa I’m a third-year student. Don’t be shy.
Ask questions: where do you work, what do you do? If appropriate, explain your project and ask if they might help.
That’s it! We practiced quite a bit in school and I was on my way. I had also emailed Kieron a few times (OK, more than a few times) about what to expect and what he suggested. He said to “come as you are” and encouraged me to be my authentic self.
Wow, well you took their advice to heart and must have spoken with everyone in the room!
I was grateful for the opportunity and I didn’t want to squander it. It definitely helped that Kieron gave me a shoutout on stage at the start of the day, which was kind of him, but I did make sure to use every break to meet people around the room. There were other college students I’d not met before and I encouraged them to walk around too. Everybody needs a little nudge to put themselves out there!
Amazing, what were your big takeaways from this experience?
Well, I’ve realized that LinkedIn is a very powerful tool. This all happened for me in less than a month. I hadn’t appreciated the vastness of what LinkedIn represents. Since Professor Wyld shared my post, my LinkedIn has grown from less than 100 to 288. By attending the conference, I made tons of connections…for my research and I’ve also had inquiries for jobs in areas I wouldn’t have considered like sales or being a recruiter.
And now you’re being interviewed for hertelier! We met at Rooms101, too.
How do you use LinkedIn now?
I am very active on LinkedIn now. Every day I post an inspirational quote. That is the first thing I do to start my day. We don’t share enough positivity. So many incredible humans in this world, and everyone struggles at times. Sometimes we just need to hear it’s OK and you're not alone.
Where do you get your quotes?
I follow a few inspirational accounts and re-share the ones I love best.
What are your top 3 favorite quotes?
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass it is about learning to dance in the rain.
Prove yourself to yourself and not to others. (I like to call this one: it’s me vs. me)
The bad days are only temporary.
Those are great! My Mom always tells me a version of the last one, “this too shall pass.” Thanks for sharing all these fabulous tips for using LinkedIn and networking Norrisa, wishing you continued success!