I’m a Young Professional, What Life Skills Do I Need to Enter the Workforce? (Part 1 of 3)
Networking. It’s a life skill. I’ve heard this term at university, at work and in just about every professional sense.
As I begin my transition to the professional world, just graduating virtually from college last week, I’ve come to realize, that my dad is the king of networking. That word ‘networking’ was never specifically used. My dad never explicitly talked about ‘networking’ to his five kids but looking back now it’s really clear what he was doing!
Growing up, my dad being the sociable doctor he is, took every chance to make new connections. Having heard this word a million times and seen it in action, I can now self-proclaim that my dad takes the networking crown.
It was a privilege growing up with a dad who shows that making connections is a life skill and will take you to places you imagine only in your wildest dreams. He always told me, go meet that person, introduce yourself, ask them questions. He wanted us to be curious and constantly learning, a value that has benefitted me as I developed my professional skills.
As a kid, I would describe my dad as extremely outgoing, able to assert himself and speak with any stranger, a trait he gleaned from both my grandfather and grandmother. The “gift of the gab” as some people call it.
Now I realize this life skill is far more valuable than being able to talk the latest sports scores and stats to some random at the grocery store, in fact, the networking skill is about making connections. A Harvard Business Review study on North American lawyers found that their success depended on, “their ability to network effectively both internally (to get themselves assigned to choice clients) and externally (to bring business into the firm).”
My dad never did this in a cynical, only out-for-business manner, but he knew how to help set people up and put himself in the right place.
You needed something, he knew someone. Perhaps that’s because we come from outside the small city of Scranton where everyone knows everything about everyone. But maybe, it was so small because my dad, Jack Henzes created my world to look like everything was in my reach if I did the right things.
He taught us, all five of his children, you can’t do it alone. You must come with the life skills, charisma, leadership and brainpower, but you need connections.
In the world of business and communications, you need a strong network. My mom, a psychologist who understands what the value of connections means for successful mental health practice, always said,
“In today’s world, it’s not what you know, but who you know.”
I have heard this common phrase taken one step further from my college’s career development center: “It’s who knows you.” When I was looking for an internship for my senior spring semester, I went to my professors and asked if they had any ideas. They had plenty, being so connected on the Syracuse campus.
My professors asked me to ‘CC’ them on my outreach emails because it showed that I was part of their network and could be viewed as a legitimate candidate.
As a student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, I stepped out of my Scranton bubble and into what Syracuse calls, “The Orange Mafia,” more specifically for me, “The Newhouse Mafia,” where famous and successful alumni love nothing more than to meet the next generation of Newhouse students who are looking to continue on the legacy.
This is not only part of their giving back to the area of the University that propelled them into their careers but to encourage and challenge us as students to gain networking experience and in turn, use their network more widely.
Your network expansion is a ripple effect because accomplished networkers use that connection to work another connection.
I have been told you end the conversation with “I can put you in touch with my friend who can help you?” or “Can I have your colleague’s number to ask about my question?” As your reach grows and grows, and as relationships strengthen you will find certain connections to be exceptionally trustworthy for advice and recommendations, and in turn, people will trust you to help set them up successfully.
And that’s exactly why you are reading this post. Another networking king, Rick Burton, my sport management professor who took me and 11 other students to study sport and history in Australia for two and a half weeks, introduced me to Damian Hecker, co-founder of Leaders of Evolution.
Captivated by Professor Burton’s knowledge of the sports world and the people working in it, I took his classes back on our upstate New York campus. Always providing his students something more than just a lecture, he brought Jon Shepherd, co-founder of Leaders of Evolution, to our classroom.
Following Jon’s presentation, I introduced myself, hearing my dad’s voice in my head and Professor Burton, out loud, telling me to ‘shake some hands.’ Jokingly, I asked if they needed another member on their team, especially if it meant a plane ticket to Australia.
I am still waiting for my invite to Oz, but they did make good on their word, inviting me to work for LoE as a Content & Communications Coordinator.
I would like to think that the life skills I have gathered at Newhouse and Syracuse allow me to be in this position, but that’s only half the battle.
I can yell into the dark void of LinkedIn, Indeed and other recruiting sites, sending my resume and portfolio to every possible position, but I need something to shine above all of those other applicants.
I need a name or a connection to put me at the top of that pile. Because after that I know, my expansive portfolio will show that I am capable of performing.
As a broadcast and digital journalism major, we practice performing every day, on camera, at a mic on the radio, writing news script. And that’s what matters.
Do my broadcast professors grade tough? Sure they do. They have a standard to uphold, showing me I have room for improvement, reminding me I am clearly not a full professional yet. But the grade at the end of the semester doesn’t tell an employer how well I can shoot video, do a live-shot or write an article. My high marks in psychology classes and other arts and sciences tell you that I worked hard. Even my high marks in my Newhouse classes tell you that I followed directions and showed up to class and handed my assignments in on time. But my portfolio and resume, tell you I am capable and here is proof of my skills, which is what employers now and into the future really want to see.
This era of skills over GPA is being noticed as the 4th Industrial Revolution. Named by Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, the 4th Industrial Revolution, this notion challenges the idea of what it means to be human.
It’s characterized by the influx and range of new technologies that fuse physical, digital and biological worlds. Schwab says billions of people are now connected on this planet, unlike any time before this.
Bernard Marr, Enterprise Tech contributor for Forbes, suggests our education and training systems need to focus on critical thinking and flexibility, real skills that come from experience and not a textbook.
With this new wave oncoming, World Economic Forum stresses that human skills and your network are still critical to surviving and that technological skills and advances will help people go further.
With this rapid pace of change and new technology, some skills that will be needed in 10 years aren’t even available to us to learn yet and that’s why it’s important to self-educate and self-train on the go. Keeping your skills up is what’s keeping you involved.
As a freshman who worked incredibly hard at my grades to get into a school like Newhouse, I was told by my professors and advisors, stop worrying about your GPA, they are looking at your reel and portfolio. As you can imagine, this sounds slightly daunting, because in reality, sharpening your tool kit is harder than getting good grades, but immensely more valuable.
The Newhouse competitive vibe propels students to be very involved on campus, practising their communication skills outside of the classroom as well. I am part of our radio station, TV station and student publications. Between my in-class work of producing radio segments and TV casts, and then my extra-curricular work, I created a diverse portfolio.
My experience is at the top of my resume and my GPA, well, that’s at the bottom for my pride.
In the communications world, there’s always a side hustle and the ability to work free-lance on top of your day job to stay ahead of the game and constantly learn. The gig economy, as it has been christened, highlights the need for all professionals to be able to juggle more than one role or project at a time.
For all young people transitioning to a workforce changing like never before, sharpening up as many life skills as possible will be crucial in our ability to thrive.
As a sophomore, I was once told by Yogi Roth, a Pac-12 Networks college football analyst, and filmmaker, “you have to play.” He meant that you always need to be trying the next big thing: working on it, perfecting it and using it to tell a story.
Working for multiple companies and organizations has allowed me to try new software and new procedures, run different business models and work under different missions and goals.
Trying multiple different positions and worlds of experience, ranging from sports to business and corporate to food and entertainment, I’ve been challenged to handle each task a little differently than before, but with the same thrill of producing content and storytelling in mind. Moving into the workforce, leaving my student status behind, in order to succeed, I need to continually grow my experience and my network.
Moving into the next phase of my life, leaving school and university behind, I have faith in my interpersonal relationships, written communication and ability to work autonomously to carry me through the ever-changing demands of today’s workforce.
I know that the curiosity and networking skillset my dad instilled in me as a child and as a young adult will propel me to find the connections that will bring me to my next opportunity.
If you’re in high school, recently graduate university or a c-suit executive I would love to continue the conversation, please comment below or contact me via our Leaders of Evolution platforms.
You can also connect with me via LinkedIn
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