No matter where you are in your print career and life, you must cultivate a large circle of smart people as colleagues and friends. Most of us have tight relationships with just a handful of trusted, smart people. Big picture-wise, it’s essential to hang out with a variety of smart people – at work as well as outside your company and the print industry. In doing so, you will naturally grow and learn. You’ll become someone who knows how to add value, and you’ll learn to build relationships with people who can open doors and give you advice you can trust.
Be sure to read to the end to see my list of 10 places to find and network with smart people.
WHY SHOULD WE SEEK OUT SMART PEOPLE?
When I launch hybrid work teams, we talk about the importance of surrounding yourself with smart people and the effect that has on the team’s success.
In Michael D. Watkin’s book, “The First 90 Days,” he talks about “power coalitions.” There are good and bad coalitions, obviously, so let’s focus on the good ones. Power coalitions have expertise, control of information, connections, resources such as budgets and rewards, and personal loyalty.
Who controls access to the coalitions? That’s right. Smart people.
WHICH SMART PEOPLE DO WE MEAN?
Let’s define the kind of smart people that can improve our lives and careers.
We all know people with high IQs. Sure, they’re smart in the traditional sense. But the best “smart people” aim high and have excellent personal accountability on top of their intelligence.
I’m talking about people with rich life and work experience who can connect the dots in unusual ways. They see things crisply and have excellent memories. Think about people like print industry icon Pat McGrew. Yes, people like Pat can be a little intimidating, but these are the people we want to embrace!
I am well into my career and am considered a subject matter expert in many industries. To be a leader, however, I need to stretch myself. I must be in front of trends, conversing with thinkers, intellectuals, dreamers, and brilliant visionaries.
WHERE DO WE FIND SMART PEOPLE?
Where do we find such people? And how can an average person like me earn the right to be invited into their inner sanctum?
We need to go where smart people congregate.
You may not realize it, but the most accessible place to find smart people is at your job. At work, there’s probably at least one committee or cross-department group of the most intelligent people in the company. Maybe it’s the team that reviews department budgets or the group that plans your company’s presence at print industry conferences. Can you get yourself invited into that group?
Early in my career, I volunteered to help update the corporate handbook. Boring? Well, it was a bit. But over six months of regular meetings, I worked alongside the HR manager, the company attorney, our corporate CPA, all the division managers, our external risk management company, and a team of people who raised their hands like I did. I learned how big companies operate and where they can be exposed. I learned as I went. And you can, too.
10 PLACES TO FIND AND NETWORK WITH SMART PEOPLE
Beyond work, we must “find smart people in the wild.”
Here are a few ideas:
Print Industry – Seek high-quality chats and groups that convene regularly to network and discuss topics. Choose active, moderated groups that attract the best and brightest in the printing industry. Check out Print Production Professionals, Girls Who Print, and #PrintChat.
Brand Loyalty – Do you have software, a technology, or a product you use regularly? Get involved in an advocacy or influencer group, or join a user community like Dscoop. I belong to the Grammarly Collective. We test new AI releases and give feedback to developers.
Technology – Mentoring and networking forums are ideal for ambitious entry-level and mid-career professionals. I mentor in a Google Developer Group (GDG) of Women Techmakers.
Local Gatherings – Attend meetings as a guest and get a feel for the atmosphere. Think about Mensa, Toastmasters, Rotary International, PTA, League of Women Voters, political action groups, and charitable organizations.
Headhunters, Matchmakers, and Platform Providers – These are great places to network with C-level players and business owners. You can contribute by presenting, moderating events, working on research projects, introducing people to each other, and helping people one-on-one.
Masterminds and Accountability – These are intimate groups of like-minded people working on their careers in an atmosphere of trust and collaboration.
Industry Experts – Do you follow an industry expert, thought leader, author, or business leader who you just love? Chances are there’s an invitation-only or paid community around that person. These are pleasant places but can be a bit of an echo chamber. It’s important to go where you can get outside your comfort zone.
Research – These groups collect and analyze data and then bounce it around in a group of smart people to test suppositions. Members come from a range of industries and academia. You’ll enjoy yourself if you’re good at analysis, insight, observation, and logic.
Hobbies – Pick a group you already hang out in – sports, crafts, college alums, volunteering, etc. Find a sub-group of smart people, and find a reason to socialize with them. Or learn a new hobby that naturally attracts smart people. After watching the miniseries Queen’s Gambit, I decided to improve at chess and have made a new group of friends.
Advisory Boards – Board service is an area where you need to pull your weight, gain knowledge that fills gaps, and develop your unique style of smarts. If you can build career-long relationships, you may find yourself serving on board after board with the same people. Good people refer and bring in other good people.
Whether you consider yourself smart or not, you WILL benefit in your career and life by finding ways to serve, lead, and add value by reaching and expanding your circles. Surrounding yourself with smart people is…SMART!
Check out last month’s post: https://printmediacentr.com/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-your-chief-marketing-officer/
Sandy Hubbard is a Chief Marketing Advisor who consults with printing companies on sales, marketing, strategy, and planning. She also coaches sales and marketing teams to help them reach their full potential. Connect with Sandy on LinkedIn to learn more.