Have you had the good fortune to have someone invest in your professional growth- someone whom, looking back, you realize helped bring you to where you are today? Or, maybe you’ve never had a mentor and have had to figure it out all on your own? What about today? Do you want to make a difference in someone else’s career? Are you wondering how to connect with others?
I’ve been there and here’s my personal story of how I connected for support and to share through the creation of a Women’s Employee Resource Group. Here’s what I learned are the three keys you can take to connect with other professionals to enhance your career or to support others: dream big and share your dream with others, take that first step towards your goal, and do this with genuine desire to add value to others.
Dreams can develop into visions. And, visions are achieved by planning and taking steps towards the goal. I had attended a women’s leadership seminar and wanted to continue the stimulating leadership discussions I had at the seminar. After hearing from another attendee on how she started monthly leadership luncheons with the women in her office, I was inspired to do the same.
At first, my vision was small- occasional lunches with likeminded women who wanted to grow their leadership skills. I shared my plans with a colleague who encouraged me to open this to all the women at our company and make it a much bigger event. Fortunately, there was another colleague inspired to partner with me. Now, there were two inspired women compelled to act.
By sharing your vision with others, you open the door for unexpected connections and opportunities to enlarge your vision and find the support and resources you’ll need.
Remember that no step is too small to be taken. Develop your strategy and revise it as you learn what works.
In developing our vision for a women’s group, we realized a need for our group to have an advocate and our Vice President of HR saw the value of our proposition. With their support, we organized an event to gage interest and, to our surprise, more than half of the female employees at our location expressed interest in participating in a women’s event. This event was a success and our Employee Resource Group (ERG) was officially born shortly after. We recently celebrated our one year anniversary!
Whether you are looking to launch a women’s resource group or are looking for other avenue to network that aren’t focused on women or part of a group, be focused on what you want to get and what you want to give.
Write down what you are looking for. Write down the names of the people who have the skills, resources, or network to help you. Give thought to what you may be able to offer- successful networking is a give and take.
Knowing how to network effectively is necessary to grow professionally. Luckily, networking skills can be learned. Introduce yourself to new employees, industry peers, and colleagues wherever you find them. Don’t wait for others to take the initiative. Go to industry networking events and talk to someone you don’t know. Follow up with a short note, an article, or a contact they may find interesting. Ask to participate in cross-functional projects. Volunteer in any cause close to your heart.
If you show genuine interest in your dream, take the steps to your goal, and want to add value to yourself and others, you cannot go wrong. You will find your network growing and getting stronger.
Maria Johnson is a Supply Chain Manager, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, LLC