Some people are just natural networkers. They gravitate toward other people and are great at leveraging those relationships to gain more relationships. This is not me. In fact, if it were up to me I would work from home every day and interact solely with my dog and the mailman. I’m partially kidding, of course. For those of us who struggle with networking, I’ve found it helpful to really examine the value derived from such an activity.

I was in Chicago recently for the mid-point training of Willis Towers Watson’s Risk Management Analyst (RMA) program. This program consists of 21 recently hired young professionals who are just entering the industry and includes training, mentoring and an opportunity to rotate across business divisions for 18 months before choosing a specific field. As if the program itself wasn’t valuable enough, it also provides the added benefit of a starter-kit network, consisting of 21 highly motivated and talented young individuals who will ultimately be placed in a variety of roles around the country and possibly the globe. Does having a global network sound appealing? Absolutely.

Bloomberg/file photo

While talking over deep-dish pizza and collaborating over team projects, I had the chance to build relationships with these people. Although every individual RMA has had unique experiences stemming from exposure to different areas, the value of coming together to share individual experiences can’t be overlooked.

A different kind of benchmark
Networking is similar to benchmarking — you want to make sure you’re getting the same exposure to work as your peers. It gives you the opportunity to learn how it’s done elsewhere and gives perspective on where you are now. It’s the proverbial ear to the ground that lets you know whether you’re in a good spot or not. Now with technological networking tools, it’s easier than ever to expand your network.

Instead of becoming Facebook “friends” with my new colleagues, we connected on LinkedIn, and now I can access an even broader network.

While I’m sure this is only a very preliminary evaluation of the value of networking, I’m still very preliminary in my career. I know that continuing to push myself to network will uncover hidden value for years to come.

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