Learning is a part of living
One thing I have come to appreciate over the last few years is gaining fun and fresh knowledge through the experiences of others. Learning through others is a priceless and beneficial resource. I love to learn. “If you’re not learning, you’re not living.” Learning new, interesting things is part of education, and guest speakers are often overlooked as one of the better sources. If the guest speaker happens to be a thought leader and influential figure in the field of your study, that’s even more valuable!
Last week, in my digital portfolio class, we had a guest speaker – Cameron Brenchley. Cameron is the Vice President at Collabortative Communications Group. Cameron previously worked for the U.S. Department of Education as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Communications and also as the Director of Digital Strategy. In between his positions at the U.S. Department of Education, he worked as the Senior Digital Strategist for The White House. Prior to this, he worked for the U.S. House of Representatives and served in the United States Air Force. Cameron’s impressive work history had me very intrigued to hear his story! One of the topics of discussion was what it was like to work at the White House, including the daily highs and lows, the stresses, restrictions and benefits.
Something I found interesting was that Cameron studied at Valdosta State University for History. Cameron explained that his intentions were to become a lawyer, but then life happened, opportunities came along and just like that, his path in life changed. From there, Cameron received his masters in Legislative Affairs from the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. Immediately after our Skype session with Cameron was over, I tweeted him a thank you and connected with him on LinkedIn, in hopes of building a relationship with him.
Network, network, network
Aside from educational purposes, guest speakers also serve as a great means of networking. It’s important to connect with your guest speakers and keep in touch, because a lot of times, those connections can lead to future opportunities! Building and maintaining beneficial relationships is the key to successful networking. President of the New York Stock Exchange, Tom Farley, wrote an article for Fortune.com to shed some light on the importance of networking. Farley said, “Sometimes it’s individuals outside your immediate network that end up offering the advice you need to propel your career forward.” Farley also noted that every job he’s ever had, including his current position with New York Stock Exchange, he owes to networking. After walking out of a business meeting in Atlanta with the current Chairman of the NYSE, Jeff Sprecher, in 2001, Farley made it a point to find reasons and ways to stay in touch with Jeff. At the time, Jeff wasn’t a beneficial source for Farley, but networking is all about collecting relationships with interesting or influential people irrespective of the immediate benefit of these relationships. Five years down the road, Jeff’s business acquired the New York Board of Trade and he asked Farley to serve as President of this newly acquired business. Two years after that, Farley was asked to lead the New York Stock Exchange.
The point is, had Farley not spent five years staying in touch with Jeff via email and phone calls, do you think he would be where he’s at today? Always make it a point to connect and keep in contact with influential professionals within your industry or field of study!