I had the pleasure of spending time with previous coworkers of my first two jobs, and it brought to mind something that I think young professionals should keep in mind: keeping doors open. I can say, with pleasure and appreciation, that all three jobs in my post-undergrad career have come through an associate or a friend of an associate. Blessedly, the transitions I’ve made between jobs have been non-acrimonious and open.
When it can get sticky is when one takes internalized feelings that cause the new job search, like boredom or feelings of stagnation, and begins to outwardly make waves that cause the fracture of a network. The associations between professionals that can become a lifeline along a career begin the day you step into the new building, put forward your hand and say “Hello, my name is…” We all know that first impressions count, and so do second through fiftieth. The way you carry yourself, the energy you put out and the work you produce speak to you as a brand, and if you burn a bridge during a transition by slacking off, gossiping or generally leaving mentally before your physical self does, it makes things super awkward. Take for example my situation. I’ve been with my new company for a year, and within that time two people from my previous company have joined my now sister company. When I saw them, it had been nearly 12 months. However, we were able to converse and catch up about old and new topics because through Facebook, LinkedIn and good old-fashioned email, we were aware of each other’s moves and happy to see each other.
Another blessing I am experiencing because I didn’t forget those who I’ve met is that I have two fantastic mentors in my previous bosses. I’m able to email or call them and get their advice and support for whatever challenges may come. Because we have different perspectives based on our life trajectories and where we are in our careers, their thoughts are completely unlike my own and they guide me into seeing what I may have blocked due to my own biases. Do I always agree…no. But I have a tendency to get inside my head – like wayyy deep inside – and sometimes their advice is exactly what I need to crawl back into the real world.
One challenge I have made for myself for the rest of this year, and the impending new year, is to extend that network beyond immediate previous coworkers and supervisors and reach out to the creative people who are on the peripheries of that network. I recently took the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment (seriously, I highly recommend you spend the $10 and take this, very insightful), which reinforced in me how much I love to learn about nearly any and everything. While grad school has curbed my ability to do this learning via reading for pleasure, it has not and should not stop me from taking a coffee or cocktail with those who inspire me with their fearlessness and dedication to pursuing their passions.
What has keeping your connections earned you over the years?