How often have you found yourself focusing on your relationship with your boss, a professor, and professionals who can get you “ahead” in your career? At the same time, how often have you prioritized the relationships with your peers and coworkers over those types of relationships? Granted, both are important, but I find so often that we try so hard to network and gain mentors deep into our field to get ahead that we miss the fact that our peers may be the strongest set of relationships that we will ever have.
Think of it this way. A coach is crucial. Coaches empower you to be your best and set you on the right path to do so, but what coaches don’t do is get in the game with you. No, that would be your peers, your teammates, right down in the trenches with you. If you don’t have those relationships, then you could quickly find yourself playing solo in a team sport.
Right now, I participate in two Twitter chats weekly and try to read up on at least two others that are outside my expertise. I go into the chats more interested in the words of others and always leave learning something or being able to think about something in a slightly different way. Further still, I have a group message with some of my peers. We post job opportunities. We share articles and engage in discussions about various trends in the industry. We keep each other updated on conferences that we will be attending and try to in earnest to reconnect when we can, and we especially congratulate each other when we climb the ranks into full-time positions. Ultimately, we are committed to being resources for the continued growth and success of each other as a team.
Networks are great, but they don’t just appear from of thin air. That said, your network should start at home. There should be at least one peer at your current department that you have a strong relationship with that would go to bat for you and you for them. Another method for establishing your network is through social media. Searching out peers on LinkedIn, following other athletics pros on twitter, and participating in twitter chats are how I usually use social media. Beyond just making the connection, there is an extra step of getting in touch and having a conversation. Ask about their career experience so far, their career goals, the culture at their workplace, anything just asks. Beyond social media, meeting in person will always matter. My peer network was truly solidified through attending conferences. When you attend conferences, have a goal of leaving with at least one solid relationship.
Ultimately, the size of your peer network doesn’t matter whether it’s just one person or one hundred people. What matters is that your network is more than a pocket full of business cards. Athletics is the business of relationships, and relationships are more than tools used to climb at our convenience. At the same time if your only relationships are with those at the top of the mountain and you’re at the bottom, then you’ll often look around seeing others lift as they climb. There will always be a boss or mentor that you need to provide insight and growth, but you will never be limited to only learning from a coach. So next time you get the chance make sure you focus on bonding with your teammates because there is no limit to what our peers have to offer.