Networking (or, Learning as a Team)

Networking: (v.) a professional term for making friends and then shamelessly using them to learn things and get places in life.

Today, I had the privilege of sitting in on a discussion with several peers in the communications field as they discussed where they’ve gone since college, and what they’ve learned in the process. Everyone has a different story, and hearing insightful people unpack what they’ve learned is a valuable experience.

My four biggest takeaways:

1) Make a positive impact. You don’t have to be trying to solve world hunger—you can be doing something seemingly irrelevant like making couches (which, in my book, is super relevant. This was just his example). But if you’re enthusiastic about what you’re doing and kind to the people you work with, you’ll be making a positive impact.

2) Realize your worth. Should you demand a starting rate of $500,000 for your first entry-level job? Probably not. Should you be realistic about your skills, talents, and the competitive going rate? Probably. Don’t undersell yourself (unless you’re following your passion? But remember: the starving artist life is not as idyllic as singers make it sound).

3) Grow. Always be proactive in looking for areas to grow personally and professionally. “Real Life” (anytime you’re not in school) doesn’t feed you learning opportunities unless you look for them. Insatiable curiosity and a willingness to do a little extra work (both at your day job, and for your personal passions) will pay off just as much as that fancy degree you paid big bucks for.

4) Invest in every job you have 100 percent until the day that you leave. This, I learned from someone who has had approximately 6 different jobs (maybe more?) in the last 10 years—and she maintained great relationships with every single former boss! That’s because, instead of giving her two weeks and coasting to the finish line, she gives her two weeks and practically breaks her back to make sure the next person in her role will succeed. AND, she keeps getting great references because she’s such a phenomenal team player.

We all have things to learn from each other.