This post was written by Special Guest Bloggers and BVU GIVE Advisory Board Members, Kathleen Schindler & Katie McLaughlin.
When the Marketing and Communications Committee of the Advisory Board asked if I could blog about the GIVE Learning Seminar on June 7, 2012, I didn’t realize how much the panel conversation would affect me. Holding a position in Business Development myself means that networking and relationship building is of the utmost importance to me. The discussion was lead by BVU’s Jim Dickinson, and the panelists Roswell Encina, Director of Communications at Enoch Pratt Free Library, John Cammack, Managing Partner at Cammack Associates & Chairman of the United Way of Central Maryland Board of Directors, Janese Murray, Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion at Exelon, and Jon Ulrich, Change Consultant at Exelon & GIVE Advisory Board Member, were a fabulous combination of experience, sincerity, and humor.
The beginning of the discussion focused on how we communicate with others. John Cammack emphasized that you have to know yourself, what you stand for, and present that in a way that communicates your message well in order to make genuine connections. Take time for personal reflection. Checking in with yourself will enable you to build better relationships. Additionally, Roswell pointed out the importance of not just communicating, but engaging with those connections, through a variety of mediums/channels, therefore reinforcing your message and adding another layer to those relationships. With this, Janese told a story of how she learned to work smarter, not harder, saying, “it’s not just about how much concrete, measurable work you do if that work is at the expense of your ability to get out there and build relationships.” Again, it’s the old, “its not what you know necessarily, but who you know that will make you successful,” ideology, and it still works today.
The panelists agreed that not only is it “who you know,” but also how you cultivate that relationship that makes the difference. They stressed that you can’t predict how any one relationship will benefit you down the road, so it’s smart to always be friendly and engaging on the chance you can leverage that contact in the future. The panel advised focusing on building strategic relationships, and keeping your network separate from your personal friendships. Roswell gave a great example of how you should never post something on social media that you don’t want to cross over into your professional life.
Building on the topic of leveraging one’s connections, Jim asked the panel if they could describe some mentor/mentee relationships they have had. The panel explained that mentors are safe harbors that you can go to and discuss something that you’re uncomfortable telling anyone else, especially your boss. John C. explained that if you respect your mentor and if you ask them for their advice, they will respect you in return, and go to bat for you when you need it. He said, “you can learn and teach through a mentoring relationship,” followed by Janese who added “when you’re moving up in your career, there unwritten rules that no one is going to tell you. Your mentor can point things out to you to get you to the next level.” They agreed that a mentor can help you see who you really are, because then you can make constructive changes, and send a clearer message. Jon Ulrich joked about a few unsuccessful mentors at the beginning of his career that resulted in awkward relationships. He emphasized that choosing a mentor is something that cannot be forced; it needs to be based on trust. When looking for a mentor, consider these guidelines:
- When looking for a mentor, find the people who are really great at doing the thing that you want to do.
- Don’t exclude people who work outside of your particular field – sometimes the best relationships are forged across professional niches.
- Find a mentor who allows you to be honest/genuine, without fear of judgment.
- Mentors can help you see yourself more clearly, which allows you to make changes/improvements to yourself.
- Remember that not all mentor/mentee relationships are formal; sometimes your mentor won’t even know he/she is playing that role for you.
As the final question Jim asked Jon Ulrich, “How is it interacting with the more experienced generations?” to which he responded that intergenerational relationships can be cultivated as any other. As young professionals, we should be humble and open to learning from older generations while also remaining confident in our own knowledge and ideas. It’s a give and take. The rest of the panel described their view of our generation as a resource for the future, they are looking to us to bring them new ideas and show them our leadership potential.
General networking/relationship-building takeaways:
- If you’re not a naturally outgoing person, challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and/or look for ways to engage that are less intimidating to you. Remember that if you don’t know how to start a conversation, it’s always good to ask the other person about themselves.
- Know the importance of volunteerism: volunteering is a great way to expand your network and build relationships while also making a difference in the community.
Use of Social Media
- Focus on being engaging and strategic; think of social media (both personal and professional) beyond just a means to talk about yourself. Make it meaningful!
- Keep your personal and professional social media outlets separate, but still always be conscious of both. Know your audience.