Everyone speaks on the importance of building your professional network for career advancement and success. But, I believe the value in these connections come from building and establishing meaningful relationships.
As a young professional, I’ve found that connecting with other professionals in and outside of my professional space has proven to be invaluable. Reflecting on my career path thus far, many times these connections have fostered larger opportunities and have been the stepping-stones to where I am today. My network has led me to quality internships, jobs and consulting opportunities as well. So why is it important for young people to build and maintain their networks?
- Meaningful connections lead to larger opportunities
In my career, professional connections have led to numerous opportunities. At a leadership conference in undergrad, I connected with a panelist who offered me an internship at city hall. That internship led to my first job right out of college, which in turn led to the foundation of my career. It’s also worth noting that connections go further when you’re prepared and have specific asks.
- Expand access to subject matter experts within your professional space
One of the best suggestions I received was to set up informational interviews with professionals whose job I’d want in the future. These meetings can be informal over coffee or lunch, but most professionals have no problem talking about themselves and their accomplishments. Not only do you gain insight to the paths that they took to get where they are, but you also expose yourself to subject matter experts within your professional space. These experts can give you tips and tools of your trade that can be beneficial to your career and suggest conferences or professional affiliations that may be worth your time. They can also serve as future references and vouch for you as well.
- Gain access to mentors
In networking, one of the best come ups is finding someone with more experience than you who is well respected and influential that you vibe with. These individuals make for the best mentors who will be available for all your career related questions. They will offer encouragement and new perspectives, but some of the most valuable lessons they can give are on their failures and “what not to do”. It’s important to note that mentors can come from unconventional spaces. After striking up a conversation with my dentist, I found that he was a vast of knowledge beyond his practice and he continues to happily provide beneficial connections for me through his own network.
- Fresh ideas come from collaborating
Gone are the days of getting though a project or new concept without the use of a colleague or friend in a different industry. In the non-profit world, this especially rings to be true. When projects have limited resources, it’s important to connect with others who may have something to contribute or can point you in the right direction. Often times I find myself reaching out to someone I may have connected with in the past that can offer a piece of advice or lend a helping hand. For those who aren’t sure where to start in expanding your network, I suggest looking into a program like Leadership Buffalo where leaders from different backgrounds unite to make Buffalo better.
Once you establish your connections it’s important to continue to nurture these relationships. Make it a point to reach out for a quick catch up even if you don’t have a specific ask. Leverage your new connections and watch how many new doors open to create new opportunities. Happy connecting!