by Maddie Morris, 2019 College of Business senior and Colloquium advisory member
Networking is a business buzz word, but why is it so important? Is networking only important to get a new job or get promoted? One part of networking is gathering contacts and knowing as many people in the business as possible, but another part of it is gathering a smaller, more select group of people whom you really trust. This smaller network can be helpful for making big life decisions, whether professional or personal. This group of people is not meant to make the decision for you, but rather offer a diverse set of opinions, information, and knowledge. Knowing how to use your network to make strong decisions is an important skill.
I am a naturally inquisitive person, so I naturally ask people about their opinions when I have a decision to make. What I have had to learn is how to not let others make the decision, but to allow their information to inform the decision I make. This fall, I utilized my network when I had to decide on whether or not I should take a job. I knew my initial thoughts about it, but I decided to gather more information before deciding. I started with two people in my network who are in the business field but were not connected to the job. I told them about the situation and asked for advice. I was not looking for them to tell me what to do, but I wanted to know their opinions and reasoning. They reassured me that I am a talented employee and could find another job in a different environment if that was something I wanted. They each also offered me contacts or opportunities in Richmond and NYC to show me some of the possibilities.
After hearing about alternatives, I decided that I should get more information about the actual position and hear from the other side. I reached out to several people who currently held the position I was offered. I was honest with them about my concerns and feelings, and they gave me honest responses to my questions. They sympathized with some of my concerns, but reassured me that they had enjoyed the position and were content with their choice. I also reached out to someone else I had connected with at the company. He was able to give me a birds-eye view of the situation. He was able to give me insights and help me to feel comfortable stepping into the position. Although I had not previously gone to these people for advice, I had made a connection with them previously, and I was able to use that connection.
I then had to weigh my options. I had options! I had people willing to help me find contacts and jobs where I wanted to live. I also had an offer at a familiar place where I already had several resources and friends, in the the city I wanted to live in. It was talking to my dad that pushed me to my final decision. We were talking, and he was asking me questions. He started asking me about NYC, and he realized and made me realize how much I wanted to live in NYC. Of course, I would have other opportunities if I turned this one down, but they might not be in NYC. I ended up deciding to accept, and I was thankful to enter senior year with a job lined up. I did not let me dad make my decision, but after hearing from both sides of the argument, getting more information about the job, and weighing the alternatives, his reasoning helped me arrive at my conclusion.
Know why you are going to certain people. Are they people you go to for business advice? Or are you just looking for specific information? Talk to people who are on both sides of a decision. Only talk to people you trust or people whose opinions or information you value. You don’t have to have one mentor you go to with all of your questions. Different people can help with different questions or different parts of a decision. Do not wait until you have a decision to make to build a network that can help you, but do not be afraid to reach out to people you have not previously reached out to. Networking helps with decision making.