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Next to exploring and becoming conscious of who I am, networking has been the most important aspect of managing my career.  In many ways the two are interlinked–understanding my values and goals has in most cases been facilitated by the people who I have connected with through career networking.

From my experience, there are a few keys to successful networking as a student:

  1. Have a GOAL – It is easier if you start out with some idea of who you would like to meet.  When I was in school, the person I most wanted to meet was Stephen Covey, who wrote the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that was a life changing read for me.  It took me almost two years and a long series of connections that lead me to getting a chance opportunity to speak with him as he was being introduced to speak at an event I was volunteering at.  Achieving that goal gave me important credibility, for some meetings that I wanted to have with his company.
  2. Make a PLAN – Connecting with people who can have a significant impact on your career is rarely a one-step process.  As Dave Navarro discusses in his article “7 Steps For Networking With A-Listers“, there are many ways to connect with the people you want to develop a relationship with.  Diagram out who it is that you want to connect to and who they look to for influence.
  3. Get INVOLVED – There is no better time to start building the foundation of your network than while you are a student.  There are dozens or even hundreds student organizations and conferences that you can get involved in.  Take the time to explore a few that appear to focus on your career and life interests–and then get meaningfully involved in at least one that will help you meet other people with similar goals or values.   As a fourth year student, I became the President of my ACE/SIFE team at Wilfrid Laurier.  Not only have I met some of my best friends through that experience–but I can also trace all of the jobs I have had in someway back to the network I established in that role.
  4. Build RELATIONSHIPS – Effective networking is not transactional, it is relational.  It would be easy to measure the volume of networking that you do by the number of cards that you hand-out/receive or connections that you have on LinkedIn.  But networking only becomes effective when someone is willing to do something for you that they wouldn’t for someone they don’t know, like and trust.  The most significant career benefits I have received from networking have typically come 2-3 years into the relationship–it’s a building process.

In upcoming posts, I will get into more of the specifics for each of these keys to networking.

About ten years ago, I started becoming more intentional about my career and life.  To clarify, it’s not that I was drifting before.  Quite the opposite – I was driving hard in the WRONG DIRECTION!

It was the night before a micro economics midterm in second year university that was my “moment of clarity”.  I had been doing a lot of reading on articulating my values and goals and how those related to my career and life path.  What crystallized on that November night in 1998, was that the path I was on was in-congruent with the direction I innately knew I wanted to go in.

So I put down my textbook, grabbed a beer and began charting my new course.  (I dropped micro the next day which by default moved me from the honours to the general (“economics light”) program).

At that time, there were relatively few career and life management resources available on the Internet–and those that were there, certainly weren’t easy to find.  So I dove into books.  The extra time that I had gained from  the lightened course load I spent at Chapters (back in the days when they had lots of comfy chairs).  I devoured all of the personal development and business books that caught my eye.   Then I moved on to workshops and networking to connect with other people in discovery mode.

In my final year of university, I began to recognize that most students don’t have a good understanding of who they are and what they want (values and goals).  They are very knowledgeable about their field of study–but not themselves.  That realization helped me to see that I had an important role to play in helping others achieve their own moments of “clarity” and become more intentional about their career and life path.

That focus has helped me to navigate the course of my career thus far.  But reflecting on the true nature of my goals over the past couple of months, I recognized that I want to have an outlet that enables me to connect more directly with individuals ready to kick start the evolution process in their career and life.

I’m seeing a lot of exceptional on-line resources emerge in the field of career and life management.  Now I want to contribute to that community of knowledge and expertise.  I feel that it’s time to have an on-line voice.