Using Your Network

Using Your Network | New Faculty

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After a few years on planet earth, you meet some people. You go to college. You meet some people. You move once or twice. You meet some more people. You change jobs/professions. You meet some more people.

Twenty years later: you know quite a few people. Introvert or extrovert, you just meet people!

As a newer faculty member trying to rework a course for fall, I started really thinking about all the people I knew and know. I was looking to supplement my online course with video’s, shorter documentaries, and anything that would serve as a “think tank” piece to get discussion going among the students as a way to engage with them without physically seeing them.

I began drilling down who I knew and what their area of expertise was. As I did this, I was pleasantly surprised by the people who I’d crossed paths in life with and how many I had the good fortune of knowing. These folks came from all parts of my life from a friend from childhood to people I’d worked with during my days with FFA and 4-H, to grad school cohort friends, and current colleagues in my faculty life. The best part was that I still keep in touch with many of these folks. Whether it’s by social media, emails, or actual face-to-face time, keeping these ties open has been important for me on many levels. Sure, I don’t speak to these people as much as I’d like to and see some even less frequently, but it’s nice to know that my parents urge to join clubs, set high goals, and earn my education are paying off even if it did take 15 years to get a ROI from it all.

As a young faculty member or grad student, you’re in the same boat. I cannot stress the importance of networking enough, building professional and personal relationships, and being mindful of what you’re doing and where you’re doing it. I know I’ve written before about being under the microscope all of the time and while being human means making mistakes, it’s important that people see you at your best and sometimes you’re worst.

I don’t know if all of my contacts will say yes to a guest video or audio cast, but it was really nice to be able to reach out to folks, personalize a few lines of an email and then make my request. As I put the finishing touches on this post, I sent out 10 emails and have had seven, yes SEVEN come back and say they’d like to help me out. In stats speak: that’s pretty darn good! It made me see how vast a network I’ve been able to set up and I hope those people feel the same way when they saw my name drop into their inboxes.

As you navigate the first few years of your faculty career, it’s important to reach out to your network to help give you a boost. You know you’ve helped others before and it’s only kind to return the favor. I made sure to ask for a manageable commitment, didn’t get too heavy handed with my request, and set firm expectations for deadlines so I can get things up for my upcoming class. I always tell my students, “you never know when you’ll come across someone in life again,” so make sure you’re representing yourself the way you want to be remembered for the future. The first few years on faculty are fraught with distractions, requests, and time management issues so why not give yourself a break and lean on the folks you can count on? I’m ever so grateful to have seven “yes’s” this evening and was again reminded how wonderful it is to be back in agriculture.

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