Most of us have some kind of opportunity to participate in communities. Maybe it’s the school PTA, maybe it’s a technology user group, or maybe it’s a book club. Whatever the opportunity, make sure you’re taking advantage of it, because there’s real value to be gained.
Communities are particularly important in our professional lives, because a strong professional network – people you know outside of work – becomes a substantial part of your personal value and brand. Companies know that we can’t be Master Of All Things, All The Time, but they know that people with strong networks can often get back-channel answers, introductions, or solutions.
Far too many professionals don’t avail themselves of communities, but it’s easier than ever to do so. Many groups will use tools like Slack to keep in touch across the globe, although the importance of the occasional in-person meeting (like a conference or local meetup) can’t be denied. Yes, participating in a community – or, if none exist in your area, fostering one – takes time. And yes, we all have too little time as it is. But if your success (you’ve defined yours, right? It’s in Be the Master) depends on your career, then your career will be significantly enhanced through community participation.
Oh, you’re an introvert. Yeah, that makes it harder. Me too, although you wouldn’t know it. I’ve started, nurtured, and passed on many community efforts, including some major ones. Being in a crowd (like at a conference) requires an immense energy expenditure, but it is absolutely worth it. Yes, I’m exhausted at the end of the day. Yes, my closer friends and I have to remind each other to mingle, shake hands, ask names, and be friendly. Yes (I’ll say it again), I’m exhausted at the end of the day. But it is 100% worth it for what it does for my career. As I’ve moved up in my company, my ability to “work” a conference floor, engage in meetings with strangers, and so on, has been essential, and those are sills I picked up through communities.
So if you’re not participating regularly in some kind of community, ask yourself whether or not you feel your career deserves the long-term boost it’ll bring.