Guest commentator: Jessi M. Sheridan, Chief Operating Officer, Delta Phi Epsilon International Sorority @DPhiEHQ and member of YPC’s Advisory Board

What have you learned about networking over the past several years through your time in YPC?

When I moved to Philadelphia in 2014, my job provided me with ample time on the regional rail and little time to meet new people. I realized that I needed to take the initiative to get involved in something in the city, or else I would only have my career to show for myself. A quick Google search brought me to the Young Professionals Council site of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.

My first networking event seems like just yesterday; likely because since that day, my network has grown exponentially; I have found the meaning of community right here in Philadelphia. Networking has changed who I am, from someone who would rather be at home than exchanging business cards, to someone who finds pure satisfaction from actively connecting others.

However, networking was a learning process. Here are some of my personal learned lessons from my networking journey.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

This seems like a given, but it can be really hard for some people to make the commitment to meeting new people, shaking hands, making small talk, and sharing contact information. It seems so transactional – but it doesn’t have to be! Talking about things that matter to you makes networking so much easier, so much more fun, and it allows you to step into what may feel like discomfort with a little bit of ease.

You’ve Got to Put in the Work

Networking takes work. Going to an event and meeting a handful of new people is just the beginning of the beauty of networking. The follow up is where it gets so good! Following an event, take the cards you received and follow up with an email offer to meet up for coffee at a later date. This second touch-point is critical for developing the network you are seeking to grow.

Just Ask

What has been the most eye opening is how willing others are to meet over coffee, offer to make additional connections, and stay in contact over time – if you just ask. Some of my closest professional connections have not come from the workplace but rather from intentional networking and follow up conversations. I have found that Philadelphians welcome the idea of pursuing professional relationships and helping others succeed. This is clearer now, more than ever, after years of networking.

It goes without saying that networking can lead to new opportunities by opening many doors, but it takes commitment to getting out of your comfort zone, putting in the work, and asking others for help. YPC has given me the opportunity to do all of these things which has made living in Philadelphia that much more enjoyable.