How to Expand Your Network with Peer Mentoring
Networking is the art of using your personal and professional connections to create an environment that allows you to thrive. Networking is how you pick up leads to new jobs, projects, funding opportunities, or answers to your questions. It is an important skills that is invaluable to anyone’s professional growth. In the Psychology Today article, “Give Away Your Network” authors Ray Williams and Darcy Rezac observe networking is “discovering what you can do for someone else. In other words, networking is not about you and how others can help you. Instead, it's about others, and how you can help them”. That is why being a mentor and finding a mentor is such a great way to positively build your network. Mentoring is all about service to others, and it allows you to be an expert at what you enjoy.
Mentoring is comforting
When I picture networking, I usually imagine a large room full of strangers in stuffy suits eating dry pastries, lots of coffee, and being worn down with small-talk and lengthy discussions. For me, this kind of mentoring is draining on my introverted constitution. Mentoring though offers a more personal way of connecting with people. Typically it affords for one-on-one situations. You may meet a mentor or mentee at a restaurant, or converse through email, or something else that can be more fulfilling than an elevator pitch.
Mentor up and down
At a recent conference I attended, I heard some good advice from a women in the audience. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. When you bring a mentee in your life, their personality, attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge can help to enhance and expand your knowledge. When you meet with a respected and experienced colleague they too become and influence, while your insights, knowledge and beliefs also helps to grow them. Mentoring is a two way street and it requires the efforts of all involved, but when sustained it also pays off benefits to all who participated. Do not limit your mentoring network to one group, but find small ways to help all those that come across your path. You never know what ripple effects your positive interactions could have.
Any social setting is an opportunity when mentoring
It’s amazing how widely different one week could look from the next for me. One week I could be mostly confined to my desk writing reports or articles and then next I could be attending different meetings for wildly different purposes, and then a picnic on the weekend to fundraise for a cause I love. My point is mentoring is not confined to a program that is specifically labeled for mentoring. It can be done almost anywhere when one approaches others with the idea of service in mind. If you are in class, see how you can help a struggling classmate, at work find out ways to actively contribute to the discussion. People come into your life in all different places, and there is no rulebook that says church, PTA meetings, or working out at the gym can not be a great opportunity to mentor/network.