Growing a Valued Professional Network

Throughout my career in a skilled trade industry, I have worked with and met a lot of different people. As the days pass and the years fly by, the cast of characters I have come to know and work alongside grew and grew. Never have I, during this journey, gained so many long-lasting contacts, coaches, friends and mentors than I did while in my early years as an apprentice.

Professional networking was never a priority for me as an apprentice. How could it be? With all the work to be done, deadlines to meet, learning to do and supervisors to impress, it’s no wonder that discussions of networking at such an early part of one’s career aren’t commonplace.

As a Technical Training Manager within Faith Technologies University, I drafted this article with four pieces of advice I wanted to share with any apprentices out there wondering how to start or where to look for potential networking opportunities. As I looked back at them, I realized that this may be good advice for all of us to be reminded of, no matter where we are in our careers.

  1. Humility: Open your mind and be willing to learn from everybody. Treat everyone you meet as if they have a secret expertise and your objective is to learn what it is. Whether they’re your supervisor, fellow apprentice or a brand-new employee, never let status, rank or seniority get in the way of your capacity to grow and learn something new. You may be surprised what kinds of valuable skills can be found within the most unassuming of characters.
  2. Seek your superiors: Expertise and highly proficient people might intimidate you, but find ways to work closer to them. When possible, surround yourself with experts and be servant minded. The goal isn’t to impress them with your aptitude and ambition, but to listen and focus. Find ways to insert yourself into their processes while still being useful to them and sponge up as much as you can. Whether it’s for technical expertise or leadership skills, seek your superiors and take notes!
  3. Respect experience: Mistakes made and lessons learned are, to me, the most important ingredients that build experience. A seasoned craftsman with a toolbox full of well-worn tools is also likely to have a mind full of valuable lessons and stories to share. Respect that experience, and respect what has been earned and sacrificed for that individual to be standing there today. Their credentials and accomplishments are a glimpse of what you can achieve in your own career, so take a good look and hear what they have to say!
  4. Don’t burn bridges: Hopefully this is simple advice for all of us to take. Everyone you meet, every contact you make and every person you work alongside is a relationship formed. They all start out very simple and a lot of them conclude that way as well, but some grow into incredible career-spanning relationships. My point is that you don’t always know what that relationship will become. Today you may be introduced to somebody who becomes your supervisor in five years, or perhaps you become theirs. If I were to list my top 10 most influential professional relationships right now and think about the day I met each of them, I would never have guessed in that moment that something truly incredible was starting to form. Treat all relationships with that potential inherent value.

At Faith Technologies University, I’m surrounded by a fantastic team, each member having their own wonderful experiences, wisdom, and stories they share in the many classes and services we offer to our fellow Faith Technologies employees. Do you have any tips you’d like to share on how to cultivate meaningful relationships in the workplace? I’d love to hear about them!