Last night I had the privilege of representing one of the community boards I serve on as a panel member at a networking event on my University’s campus. The event was geared toward younger members of Greek Life and the theme of the night was “Why Network Now.” I haven’t always been a huge advocate for community involvement, but that was clearly a very naive outlook of my younger #twentysomething self. I always thought that if I worked hard enough, the right opportunities would find me. While I was fortunate to have put myself in multiple situations where that theory was proven correct, there have also been many other situations where that premise couldn’t have been further from the truth.
The topic of the event really made me think… would my early twenties have been any different had I made community involvement a priority as an undergrad? I thought that being in a sorority, working on campus and having other jobs in town was sufficient enough. I’m pretty sure the answer to my precious question would be YES and it more than likely would have added an immense value to my undergraduate career, but I can’t go back in time, so we will never know. What I do know is that learning the skills necessary for networking and making community events a priority in my schedule has helped me immensely as a graduate student. Before I joined community networking groups or saw the value of networking, I would have never believed the benefits. I probably would have thought I was just being coerced in to joining some sort of cult or something. Now that I have lived that life and have personally seen the impact networking has made on me academically, personally and professionally, I sincerely wish I had started sooner.
#TwentySomethings are used to being thrown into social situations, but we tend to gravitate toward what we know and in many social situations, that translates to who we know.
This is how #cliques get formed, and those cliques are especially detrimental if it is difficult for others to enter the social circle you and your familiar friends have created in any given social situation. What people in cliques fail to realize is that the new people who may be interested in joining their social circle – you know, the nerd who thinks they can hang but, like, who is really going to give them the time of day? – could one day be their boss, or their mortgage officer or their fresh ticket out of their miserable dead-end job. What cliques members also fail to realize is that the people they are surrounding themselves with may very well be the reason they feel “stuck” in their life position. I get it – cliques are comfortable, but that doesn’t make them safe. I mean, the one person who could dramatically change you life for the better might be on the other side of the room for you, but if you never leave your #comfortzone, how in the world do you expect to find them!?
Networking is all about making personal connections with people you may not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. Those people might be community leaders, business owners, executives, management… you get the drift – important people understand the power of networking. Those same important people are the ones that might have the power to change the lives of us young and impressionable #twentysomethings. Getting to the next step in life is constantly and habitually part of this infamous concept I have found myself throwing around (a lot) as advice lately:
It’s not about what you know; It’s about who you know.
I honestly didn’t realize how passionate I was about the concept of networking and the importance of community involvement until I had to opportunity to speak to a room of full of 800 collegiate underclassmen who are in the same shoes I was in about 5 years ago. It’s amazing how such a small amount of time can change your perspective entirely. So no matter what stage you are at in life, if you’re feeling “stuck,” do yourself a favor: get out there and get involved! You can thank me later.
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