I posted the quote above a couple of weeks ago on facebook and twitter because I thought it was important to share with my followers whom are mostly young professionals. I received a pretty decent response and felt it would be a good idea to elaborate more on the topic. Networking is something that I have made a priority in my professional life because it can and has opened so many doors for me and my career. The old saying “It is not about what you know, but who you know” heavily resonates with me because the older I get, the more true that statement becomes. However, in my case I did not get where I am or receive the opportunities I have received solely because of who I know, but because of what I know as well. In other words, I have put myself out there as someone who is active and knowledgeable in Memphis and in the education field and that has helped me build solid relationships with pioneers in the Memphis and education community.
What is networking?
I am definitely no expert on this topic and I am speaking solely from my personal experiences. In my professional and social life, I have made it a priority to build a network of positive and influential people in my field of interests. Networking is about joining social and professional organizations, volunteering, attending events, and staying active in your community and your profession. When you do any of these things, there is no doubt that you will meet new people, learn new things, and create new opportunities.
What did I do to build my network?
When I first moved back home in May of 2009, I researched different social and professional organizations that I could join. MPACT Memphis, an organization for young professionals to connect with each other, was the first organization I joined. Joining MPACT led me to Stand for Children, a national education advocacy organization and Stand for Children has been the organization that has had the most impact on my professional career.
I cannot begin to explain how much Stand forChildren has shaped my educational career. For those who do not know, I did not major in education and when I decided to move back home to teach, I knew absolutely nothing about what was happening in the world of education. I was a true rookie and joining Stand for Children completely changed that for me. I met, at the time, the Memphis Director who is now the Tennessee Executive Director of Stand for Children at an education forum that MPACT held. After the forum, I went up to the director and expressed to her that I wanted to learn more about the organization and we scheduled a meeting. We met a week later and she immediately tapped into my leadership skills and said “I am going to make you a team coordinator.” From that moment, my growth and development as a teacher and as an education advocate skyrocketed. I was trained and equipped to be a true leader. I have spoken at school board meetings, organized parents, teachers, and community members around education, worked on school board campaigns, traveled across the country to conferences and spoke on panels, led professional development sessions, been featured in videos, and so much more. And all of this would not have been possible if it were not for my involvement in Stand for Children.
Another thing I did when I moved home was researched the people that were prominent in my profession (education). I wanted to know who was on the forefront in Memphis when it came to education and who could provide me with insight. That is when I came across a current Shelby County School Board Commissioner. I reached out to this commissioner, told her who I was and asked her if we could have lunch so that I could pick her brain. She graciously accepted and we had lunch at Applebees one afternoon. We talked for about an hour about education, politics, and Memphis, and she gave me great advice that I still use to this day. She serves as a great resource and what I like to call, a professional mentor.
The examples mentioned above are just a couple of things I have done to build my network and shape my career. I also volunteer very often which puts me in a position to meet new people. I attend events held by the Memphis Urban League of Young Professionals. This organization has networking events every month and they are always professional and filled with like minded individuals. The last organization I want to mention is Teach Plus which is a teacher only organization, but they also host networking events for teachers and I am heavily involved. Being a part of this organization has contributed greatly to my knowledge about the teaching profession and has opened many doors for me. We are led by a very intelligent, passionate, and talented director who takes the time to learn our interests and strengths and presents opportunities to us accordingly.
What can you do to build your network?
Well, the most important thing you can do is learn what your interests are. What are you passionate about? What makes you happy? What do you want to do in your professional, social, and personal life? Secondly, set aside time to research what is out there in your community/city and go check it out. Below you will find some pointers that have worked for me.
- Subscribe to the Memphis Magazine or the magazine/newspaper for where you reside tons of opportunities for networking and events can be found in these publications
- Follow the “I Love Memphis” blog if you currently reside in Memphis
- Join a professional organization
- Attend local events like community meetings or networking events
- Find organizations that are specific to your career interest and become active
- Schedule a meeting with someone that is prominent in your field and pick their brain
- Introduce yourself to someone you do not know at events and have a conversation
- Volunteer at events that interest you. For example, if you want to work in the medical field, volunteer with St. Jude or at another local hospital
- If someone invites you to an event, you should go even if it is to just show your face
- Start a blog and write about things that interest you
- Join twitter and facebook and follow people and organizations that interest you
- Get some business cards
- Take advantage of opportunities presented to you
- Share information with other people for example, if you learn about opportunities that may not interest you, but someone else, share them with that person. More than likely they will do the same thing for you
- Remain educated about what is going on in your profession and in your community
- Be receptive, passionate, pleasant, and open minded
All of these things have worked for me. Shamefully, the only thing I have not done is order myself business cards and I am currently working on that. If you guys have any other networking tips that have worked for you, then please feel free to leave them in a comment.
Again, I am no expert on this topic and I am just sharing what has worked for me. I want to leave you all with this quote:
Who you know may get you there, but what you know will keep you there, and what you do will take you to places higher than you ever imagined. ~ Dominique Edmond
HAPPY NETWORKING! :-)