The Powerful Webs We Weave...

by Tamera Dunn
@tam2thera

Depending on your area of the country, there is a bit of different lingo you hear when talking to individuals in the field of student affairs. We often speak of the importance of creating a strong network and building connections while in graduate school. One common tool for this connection comes in the form of social media. 

As a new professional, I am seeing the value not only of making connections, but in knowing what you can contribute when considering the value of a new connection. In some senses, the initial meet and greet may feel much like a political gathering - lots of shaking hands and kissing babies - in hopes of creating a positive impression. My struggle with this approach is it shows a lack of initiative on the part of the person seeking the connection to understand how they can prove valuable despite having less experience or what appears to be less to share. 

My strongest network connections are those who I have collaborated with on a project, spoken with about an opportunity, or have been able to help in some way on their own professional development journey. I can speak to how I was inspired by the little things these individuals do when not under public scrutiny. I find myself quoting previous supervisors when I realize the value of making the most of every moment versus feeling overwhelmed at the sheer volume of things which wait on my desk or in my email. Being able to speak to our combined strengths and know we have influenced one another keeps the connection alive. 

There are many areas where I have yet to learn and grow. I am in a new region of the country now and on some new email lists. I have liked and followed groups in my geographic area. I have a nice contact list that is building up in my email account as I move forward and learn about the countless resources available at my new institution. I have lots of digital tools at my fingertips, but none of these tools will develop me in the same way a conversation or in-person collaboration will. 

In no way am I saying graduate students and new professionals should ignore the digital tools available. [Read: I'm selfish and want you to read this and tweet me your thoughts.] I am instead urging you to consider the connections available to you and how you can best build your web, network, support, mentors, sponsors, people...and this powerful group becomes a force to be reckoned with once it can speak about you and your contributions on a personal and professional level. 

-- Tweet me your thoughts! @Tam2theEra 

-Tamera

Student Affairs - the First Years

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