Networking: The Importance of Building Relationships, Challenging Yourself and Creating a Future
By: Ashley Méndez
Before coming to Arcadia I never considered the importance of networking. I knew I was a leader, but I couldn’t understand the connection between being a leader, networking and my future. For me, being a leader and networking were like two substances that didn’t mix together. It was during my first semester at Arcadia that I started drawing the connection between leadership and networking. Now I understand the importance this connection will have on my future. Networking is all about making connections and building enduring relationships. A good leader must develop a good networking system to expand future options and impact more lives. I made sense of this when I had to choose a professor to write my letter of recommendation for a well-known program in Spain. I first thought of a dearest Arcadia professor who knows me well, understands my roots and my culture, and is aware of how hard I am willing to work. Then, I thought about another person who knows my story and was like a guardian to me during my first semester at Arcadia. This person helped me adapt academically and personally. Even though they are great professionals, and I would be honored to have a recommendation letter from them I thought it would me more challenging to ask someone who saw the other side of me, not only the one with a smile and the super hero cape. I decided to ask my academic advisor to write my recommendation letter. After overseeing my internship and being my professor twice, I believed he was the right person to ask. He had seen me struggle and overcome some hard times during my first year at Arcadia. He knows I am no superhero, still I am willing to work to achieve my goals. He is aware of how passionate I am and how much I care about helping others. Overall, academically he is the only person who knows I am able to prove myself wrong when my confidence on my capacity is tumbling. He challenged me, and made me grow as a student, leader and professional. After reading the letter of recommendation he wrote, I learned I made the right choice. No one could describe me better, and express my qualifications to be part of such prestigious program. I am so lucky to have developed valuable networking relationships during my college career, not only they caused an impact on my life but they will open doors for me in the future.
Now, this is important because not only I learned the value of good networking relationships, but also I thought outside the box and challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone. In my case, it was certainly easier to ask for a recommendation letter to someone inside with whom I have a close relationship. I believed the real challenge was to ask someone who wasn’t close to me to develop such important document because it will reveal a different perspective of me, or it might reinforce one that I already know. In my case, it was so rewarding to find out a person who only knows me at a professional level has such high expectations of me and is able to identify those strengths that makes me stand out as an individual. I believe this was the biggest take away; it is easy to go to someone who you feel comfortable asking for something as important as a recommendation letter, especially if you are certain of the judgement this person has of you. The huge challenge as an individual and a leader is to go outside of the comfort zone and ask someone who you are uncertain how this person sees you, specially if this person has seen your weakness and strengths in all it’s forms.If you want good feedback, go to the person not so inherently close to you. Perhaps, it’s better to go the person one circle out, who will provide feedback objectively. The objective nature of this kind of feedback, will allow you to see yourself through different lens. This offers a different type of reward. So, my advice would be to always challenge yourself no matter what, as a leader you should be able to take an extra mile and step outside of your comfort zone. By doing so not only you learn about yourself, but you also learned about how others see you as well, and let me tell you; IT IS REWARDING!