Relationships are where it’s at!
A few years back, I was fortunate enough to hear a guest lecturer who came to speak at my university’s journalism department. She described the intricate webbing of her career, starting first as a writer for a small Boston-based magazine and eventually working her way into a competitive and exciting foreign correspondence position. She had reported on civil uprisings in Egypt, gender inequities in India and natural disasters in Australia. Her career was astonishing, she was like a modern-day Jack Kerouac in a room full of naive college students, half of whom were probably checking Twitter on their laptops while she spoke.
But I was enthralled. I couldn’t believe the plethora of experiences she had accumulated over the years. When she opened the floor for questions, my hand shot up and I asked the question which she had undoubtedly heard a million times; what’s your secret to success?
I was half expecting her to say that she had graduated top of her class at Princeton or Yale, or maybe Anderson Cooper was her long-lost uncle and he hooked her up with the job. Regardless, I was sure that there must be a complex and sophisticated explanation for her myriad of accomplishments.
“I just kind of met people and made friends,” she explained nonchalantly.
At the time, I remember being frustrated with that answer. While I was glad that she didn’t pull out the overused and generic term “networking” in her response, I was still unsure of how she could so heavily attribute her prosperous career to something like relationship cultivation.
Having worked with HPS Chicago as their summer intern for the past month, I can now confidently say that I am beginning to understand just how important professional relationships are. In development, fostering positive and meaningful relationships with constituents is what drives success. Clients aren’t treated as an item on a to-do list; they’re treated as friends. Whether it’s starting off a Zoom call with a discussion of the latest season of Ozark or just catching up on how everyone is doing during such uncertain times, there is a consistent feeling of mutual care and respect.
As someone who is still in college, it can be easy to perceive the professional world as solely cut-throat and competitive, filled with Mark Cubans and Robert Herjavecs. What I’ve grown to learn, however, is that professionalism doesn’t have to be all about business 24/7. It’s okay to talk about life, the weather, the news. It’s okay to let your guard down and have a laugh with your coworkers and clients. In fact, it’s critical that you do.
Building meaningful relationships is at the core of development. Forging relationships that span years, industries and experiences is an integral part of helping companies and organizations to reach their full potential. In many ways, it seems like collaboration is the language of development.
It’s not always about prestigious pedigrees or jam-packed resumes, these will only get you so far. I’m learning that connectivity, open-mindedness and friendship are the real keys to success.
Cheesy, but true.
by: Ben Matejka, Summer Intern HPS Chicago