As a young professional I sometimes feel intimidated when attending networking events. I almost always feel underdressed (even when I’m not) and somehow manage to trip or lose my nametag without fail. At times I’ve wondered what the point is since I don’t bring in clients for our business or know many people yet. After attending several events over the past few months, I’m beginning to derive real value from networking. Here are my personal insights:
1. Networking makes you excited about your job. I can honestly say that I love my job, and even on the days I have to arrive early or stay late I am happy because I love our clients and I believe the work we do matters. I don’t think about working somewhere else and am excited to see how our company will evolve in the next few years. Talking with other young people about my job gets me even more excited. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the week, and sometimes you forget all you do until you say it out loud. When speaking with a new acquaintance about my role in our company I am reminded all over again of how lucky I am to have the opportunities and responsibilities I do. Sharing our core values and mission with others makes me proud, and I always leave events re-energized to tackle the upcoming week with even more enthusiasm.
2. Networking teaches you about other businesses. This may seem like a “duh” statement, but as an English major who is still getting her bearings in the wide world of business it rings true. There have been many times I’ve met someone and after hearing their job title ask, “So what does your day usually consist of?” This question has helped me learn about everything from supply chain management to medical device companies. Okay, maybe not everything yet but at least it’s a running start. Learning some “business jargon” and being able to speak intelligently and ask good questions are valuable skills.
3. You will make friends. I know this may sound cheesy, but really it’s true. I don’t work with anyone my age and while I value my co-workers being role models, I sometimes wish there was another young person around. I also don’t have many friends who work in business yet, so it’s very fun for me to attend networking events with other young professionals. I enjoy being around people who I can speak to about both business and the latest new brunch spot. I have become friends with a number of people I’ve met at networking events and value those friendships because they are nice people, and they also push me to be better at my job. We have things in common and can build each other up or even bounce ideas off each other. Plus, weekend work sessions are always better spent at a coffee shop with a friend.
4. You will make connections. Not only will you make friends, you will also make connections. Relationships matter in business and knowing someone or being referred may get you in the door or give you a leg up with an outside person. These connections are beneficial in sales, job hunting and asking for help or resources. Being kind and thought of well is a valuable thing and should not be underestimated. I once heard someone describe Minneapolis as “the biggest small town in America,” and I agree with that statement. You never know who you will run into or what you’ll have in common with someone, but that is best part! It’s time for us to get out there and get networking.