During the latter half of my college experience, there was nothing more stressed by my professors and mentors than the importance of learning how to network. From learning the proper communication channels all the way through the infamous elevator pitch and how to carry a conversation, I had spent two years learning how to make valuable connections in the professional world. Up until this week, I was under the *false* impression that my networking skills had been mastered.
There I was on Monday morning, freaking out as I began prepping for three coffee meetings that were set up for later in the week. See, I was used to being the one to initiate the meeting with whomever it was I was hoping to connect. Whether it be one of the very many interesting people in Washington DC where I had spent my time as a congressional intern or a friend of a professor who had a particularly diverse career path, I was used to approaching an older professional after already establishing a reason for me to be speaking with them. This situation was slightly different because Carly, the Development Coordinator here at Cristo Rey, thought I would benefit from conversations from a few incredible Columbus community leaders that she knew from her time at Mortiz School of Law.
I was so appreciative of Carly and her willingness to connect me with a few of her colleagues, but I realized I was out of my comfort zone. They were high profile people in the community with whom I had little in common and I hardly knew anything about. I also came to the realization that I no longer had the cover of “oh, I’m just a college student from your alma mater trying to see what careers are out there.” I felt the pressure to take the conversation up a few notches and ask more significant and probing questions other than, “Can you tell me a bit about what you do as ______?” What in the world am I gonna ask them and how am I going to justify taking up an hour out of their day spent with me???
Well today is Friday and I am convinced this has been the most productive week of my Fellowship since the start. Not only have I gotten the ball completely rolling on my research project, but I had three incredible meetings with very inspirational and successful community leaders. Honestly, I feel leagues ahead of where I was on Monday in terms of my personal professional development. The conversations I had over coffee were thought provoking and more helpful than any meeting I have had in the past year. This seems like a very juvenile conclusion that I should have met years ago, but this week was a testament to the value of pushing yourself outside the areas where you are confident & comfortable. Not just socially, but professionally. The perspectives provided this week really hit home in ways I didn’t anticipate and led me to ask myself some extremely important questions about my future and my personal brand as a worker. I have Carly to thank for this, and its these moments throughout my summer here at CRC that make me feel truly spoiled. They have provided me the opportunity to not only grow within the framework of what I am doing for them, but also grow as an individual as I continue to navigate the immediate post-grad life. I could not be more thankful!