In a world overwhelmingly obsessed with chatting, messaging, videoing and interacting, there are countless opportunities to meet new people more than ever before. As a young adult entering the safety profession, one thing that I’ve heard reiterated dozens of times is the importance of networking. Making connections with the right people creates a “safety net” of professionals you can call on when you need a second opinion or just want to gain more knowledge on a subject of expertise; this goes not only for safety, but any profession.
One of the best decisions I ever made for myself was joining the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and attending local meetings at my college. Along with meeting individuals who were on their way to a safety profession, like myself, I was also able to meet and listen to seasoned professionals speak on their career paths and journeys in safety. Professional organizations can sometimes require a fee, however, the information and resources that become open to you are priceless. In addition to local meetings, professional organizations usually host conferences and events that allow you to meet individuals you, otherwise, may never have crossed paths with. Consider researching and applying for membership in at least one organization related to your field.
Another truth in safety, and pretty much any profession, is that there is always going to be someone that knows more about a certain topic than you do. At times when you are challenged at work or stuck on how to approach a situation, these are opportunities to lean on your network. Most professionals are more than willing to share their knowledge and help you along the way. Why not take advantage of that?
My final piece of advice would be to not limit yourself to strictly professionals in the same field as yours when growing your network. Help doesn’t always come directly from a supervisor or manager in a company, it can also come from someone in a different department within your company who can help you get a task accomplished. The point is, reach out and be willing to listen and learn from anyone willing to share their knowledge with you.
Growing a professional network does not happen overnight. As you progress in your career, you will undoubtedly meet people that you will connect with and exchange contact information with. Don’t make the mistake of just losing that number or business card; follow up and build the bridge that you may one day need to cross. When we network, we not only build up resources to help ourselves grow, we build a foundation that can help the next generation of professionals seeking guidance grow as well. So, put yourself out there, expand your knowledge, connect with professionals and start building your network today!