SWE ‘Sounding Board’: Reaching Out to Reach Up

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It isn’t what you know; it’s who you know. We’ve all heard this cliché countless times, but how true is it? Do we even want it to be true? I can’t think of too many people that I’ve met who have been thrilled about this prospect—plastering on fake smiles and rubbing elbows to get ahead in life? No thank you! I would like to amend this cliché: it’s about who knows what you know.

Through my involvement with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), I have had the privilege of forming lasting relationships with countless outstanding women. These women come from all different places in life, from collegiate to professional to retired, and all different fields of practice, from technical and design-based engineering to project management, leadership, and entrepreneurship. These women come together, reach out, and reach up: hoisting one another to great new heights.

Many people see networking as an uncomfortable experience in which you cannot be true to yourself or just connecting on LinkedIn with that person you met on the elevator with a fancy sounding title. While in some situations, yes, that’s how you make connections, it isn’t the only way. Forming those connections is as easy as reaching out: find someone you admire and ask them to be your mentor.

Forming these relationships, dreaming big, and voicing those goals will ultimately help you achieve them. Those who believe in you, want to help you succeed, and have the resources to do so cannot unless they know where it is you want to be. This is what being a SWE member has taught me.

Most of my SWE-based network may not be directly related to companies I want to work for or even fields that are of interest to me, but it is full of leaders whom I admire. Those that dream big and empower other women to do the same. These women know what I am capable of and have faith in who I am as an emerging leader. They serve as role models, cheerleaders, coaches, and advocates.

Surround yourself with strong, empowering people and you will go far. Networking is far more than who you know—that is only scratching the surface. Your network should have confidence in who you are and what you are capable of and be willing to stand up and say, “Yes, I have absolute confidence they can do that.” These are the connections that will make a difference—not only in your professional career, but in your life.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Messick: (Left to right) Brooke Sroczynski, Melissa Lindsay, Jessica Messick.

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