One of the biggest pieces of advice I could offer anyone in developing their career within the infrastructure sustainability sector is to connect with and talk to people.
Seems like a pretty simple, straightforward concept right? Simple, but incredibly effective too in terms of career development, improving your knowledge and plain old just enjoying your career journey.
Reading books, and articles, and case studies and watching videos is good, but it’s getting to the human connection, looking at, discussing and talking about things from a number of angles that, to my mind, understanding really occurs. The human element, the connection between people is where networks are expanded and all manner of sustainability ideas, initiatives and innovations reach new areas of application.
Taking the opportunity to sit and connect and talk with people is where relationships are built (even friendships!). And this is where trust is built too and a whole world of potential opportunities from career opportunities through to sounding boards for sage advice and confidants.
Peer support networks
And within this you begin to build a peer network of folks to share advice, thoughts and ideas with. These folks can become your informal support network, and you part of theirs as you move along your career journey.
Be broad in your connections
Talk with all manner of people, within your own organisation, from differing organisations, different sectors and differing levels of seniority. People end up in all sorts of places and few of us stay in roles for decades on end. One day your client might be a colleague or vice versa.
Mentor, but also take a mentee mindset
Talk with those more junior to you. Act as a mentor, listen to them, listen to their thoughts and ideas. Ask questions to help them reach an answer. But also ask questions to help yourself too. Be open to taking on board ideas and advice. Be open to being a mentee (both informally as much as formally) in this situation yourself.
No one person is an island, no one person has all the answers when it comes to sustainability.
Do your best to think about how you can help the person you’re talking to. It might not be immediately obvious initially, but it’s rare that we can’t be of assistance in some way.
At the very least make your conversations about them, not you.
Don’t be afraid to share – obviously don’ be sharing things that are considered commercial in confidence or that you’ve signed confidentiality agreements about of course. But if you’re able to help someone, do. Take the opportunity to help.
Always make the connection, always have the coffee
And the headline of this piece – always make the connection, always have the coffee – I’d say that most definitely goes both ways. When someone reaches out to me irrespective of their perceived level of seniority to me (i.e. someone more “junior”, as it were, looking for advice) I invariably aim to make a connection with them at least in the digital arena, and physically if I can, meeting up with them for a coffee where and when we’re in the same location.
You never know who you might meet
It’s always great to connect with others in the industry, and you never know who you might meet or what you might learn. I don’t hold with the view that some have in more senior roles of “oh I don’t have time”. If you’ve not got time to connect in with another person looking to seek advice or provide advice or connect in someway then, for me at least, there’s something awry.
For me this industry is all about people, and making time to meet and grow your network, to help others and make your richer in figurative terms for the experience is a must.
If you’re looking to build and grow your career in sustainability definitely get connecting and get talking!