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Opportunities Expand When We Expand Our Circle

I am a contributing writer for a monthly Career Experts Group newsletter, and here is my May 2024 submission:

When I was in junior high school, I sat at a desk that someone had carved a little poem into, and I thought it was so hilarious, that I never forgot it. It said, “Those who know me, know me well. Those who don’t can go to…” I’m sure you can guess that last word! Over the years, those lines became my “secret mantra” when I would become angry or frustrated with other people. I even shared my “secret mantra” with my children when they would become angry or frustrated with others.

The reality is, those lines are exclusionary and create a barrier to understanding and collaboration. They also provide a really poor justification for not getting out of one’s comfort zone and interacting with strangers.

In my mid-twenties, I was working for a small company and my boss was really into networking. So much so that she had the company pay for myself and my colleagues to attend the monthly meetings of a business and professional organization. As a single person, I enjoyed going to these meetings because they included a dinner that I didn’t have to make myself! But I was reluctant to join the organization.

One night I was working late with my co-worker, Liz, and I shared with her my reluctance. Part of the meeting agenda included everyone reciting a poem—kind of like saying grace before dinner. I thought it was hokey. Liz responded by saying, “If it bothers you, join and change it.” She made me realize that it was not a good enough reason to avoid membership in an organization that had a lot of good things going for it.

I did join. It was the single most formative thing I did that directly impacted my career advancement. I became involved in the leadership of the organization, which taught me how to run a meeting effectively. I attended state and national conferences, where I learned how to advocate for issues that were important to me. And during the 28 years I was a member, I met countless people that I wouldn’t have otherwise interacted with. People who made a difference in my life.

It is easy, especially for us introverts, to avoid networking events or opportunities to interact with other people. But if we can train ourselves to approach instead of back away, to seek out instead of avoid interactions, we will benefit greatly. Develop a mindset of curiosity—what can you learn about this new person you just met?

But if we can train ourselves to approach instead of back away, to seek out instead of avoid interactions, we will benefit greatly.

For every career field, there are organizations to join. Google “organizations for (job title)” and you will have several to choose from. The beauty of this is, you already have something in common with the people you meet in these groups.

Also, there are the local and state organizations, such as Chambers of Commerce, that provide ways to meet new people. Do you have to like everyone you meet? Of course not. But will you meet people who will teach you things you didn’t know, broaden your views on topics, and introduce you to even more people? Absolutely. If you want to grow your business, or your career prospects, start by expanding your circle.

This article and other great career advice can be found at the Career Experts Group website:

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