Game On: Networking Your Way to Becoming a Brave and Brilliant Professional

There comes a time in our lives when trekking out of our social comfort zone becomes crucial in order to bring about one’s personal and professional goals. Online research and studies show that networking skills are among one of the best means of meeting people with similar interests as well as seeking employment. My own experience with networking, first as a shy blind kid in high school, to now where public speaking is part of my job, spans nearly 25 years. A variety of opportunities over this time where I became comfortable talking to small and later large groups of people has also helped build my networking confidence. Early on, learning how to connect with people did not come easy, yet by not giving up and trying harder to master social and professional conversations ultimately granted me the success to navigate the world with tact, grace, and ease. I can honestly say that putting myself out there and learning how to establish friendships and career connections has been the greatest teacher that I have ever had. The ability to master your savvy networking skills is a constant work in progress. It’s not a skill that is perfected then put back up on the shelf. In these days of COVID-19, I am once again growing and expanding my networking skills in order to stay connected with friends and colleagues, guided by our new friend “social distancing.”

When it comes down to it, networking is “relationship building.” As there are many faces and angles that the term “networking” can take and after thinking long and hard about how this blog series should flow, I will present out a few choice things to know about when planning your own networking pursuits as it pertains to your personal growth and achieving career success.

You are Probably Already Doing It:

Whether you are in high school or working your way through college, chances are you have been networking, whether you have known it or not. Take your closest circle of friends, the ones you talk with on a weekly or perhaps daily basis. Maybe they have been with you for a year or longer. These are the folks who will likely be your greatest current source of additional friends and quite possibly a connection to your next internship or job. Fear not, for if your closest friends or classmates are few, that too is fine. Reflecting on my high school years through the first two years of college, my connections were few but mighty.

Connecting through High School & University

Your school years afford you the ability to identify what in your world might interests you. Campus clubs, student associations, sports, band, Choir, and that new cool STEM group may be your calling. Talking with friends and faculty about those groups and how to get involved is the next step. You will next want to talk in person with the lead organizer or teacher of that given group to learn how to join or qualify to participate. It may start with an initial email or phone call to set this up and end with an invitation to visit the instructor in their office and/or visiting that club during your lunch break or after school to see if it will be a good fit. And although you start out in one group, you may end up finding that your calling is elsewhere, and this is a form of finding out what you care about most and from that personal strengths and values are formed. Before you know it, you will be running with the pack and perhaps leading a student meeting or campus food drive.

Stay tuned for more great career advice from Richard!

Richard Rueda (Program Coordinator, CareersPLUS, Society for the Blind, Sacramento CA) has been working in the field of Vocational Rehabilitation with a focus on providing direct service to blind or low vision Transition age youth for nearly two-decades. Richard has worked both for state and private agencies serving blind consumers throughout California. Presently, Richard works at Society for the Blind where he coordinates CareersPLUS, a Transition program built from the ground up in 2016.