I spent one summer in San Francisco interning for a sustainable fashion company. As a SoCal native and never having moved anywhere further than 30 miles for longer than a month, this was a huge adjustment for me. This meant moving to a place with no community and an entirely different lifestyle.
Aside from the fact that I was working for a company I highly admired, my fonder memories from that summer were derived from the relationships I made while networking. I spent my free weekends having coffee chats with my college alumni friends working in San Francisco. From those chats, I was graciously invited to tour and grab lunch and their workplaces.
All these were pivotal for helping me understand what I wanted for my future career. During one of my meetups with the Director of People Operations at PollEverywhere, I got to witness how an increase in employee happiness ties directly with increased productivity. During another meet up with a friend that was working for Uber, I learned the value of finding a mentor in your work sector to help you grow both professionally and personally.
For the longest time, I had this misconception that I would instantly get a job referral once I was able to secure a coffee chat. However, the most valuable piece of advice I can give you when networking is to never go into it expecting to come out with a job referral. I treated all the meetups, coffee chats, or office tours with a huge sense of gratitude; gratitude for the individuals that spent time with me and the wisdom they shared with me. Those impressions you make, the ones of genuine interest, will leave a lasting mark. If approached with this intention, the relationship will grow towards genuine interest for each other and seeking the betterment and development of one another. In hopes that one day, when you are seeking help, guidance, or advice, you will have those connections to fall back on.
Fast forward exactly a year later, I reconnected with the Director of People Operations at PollEverywhere asking for work advice. She was overjoyed to hear from me and offered me a lot of valuable insight from the 6 years of experience she had managing her position. The best part, she offered to do quarterly work progress updates and allowed me to use her as a resource if I ever needed any advice.
What many don’t understand is how much people have an inherent willingness to help. Those individuals that you seek out for wise counsel will impart their knowledge on you; you just have to approach them with the right intentions – with a posture to learn from them and not for selfish gain.