What do you think of when you hear the word, “network?” My first thought brings me to a place of formality: suits, handshakes and business cards being exchanged over cordial greetings. The familiar “what do you do?” and “do you know so-and-so?” questions we’ve come to expect at business lunches and happy hours. The little voice that says, “You never know when you’ll meet your next boss, right?”
But networking is so much more than just “getting your name out there.” In the last three years, I’ve completely expanded my understanding of a network as a member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) Cleveland. I now think of my network as a diverse cohort of individuals—invaluable resources—with whom I engage and exchange regularly to be the best professional I can be. One of more than 40 established or emerging chapters in the Nation, YNPN Cleveland strives to connect and cultivate future leaders in the nonprofit community by engaging young professionals, offering valuable networking opportunities and supporting career development.
Why did I join? I had just started my first full-time job and I needed to grow my network. Since then I’ve met some of the most inspiring and hard-working people I know. Here are a few ways that I’ve noticed young professionals (YPs) are networking differently and successfully:
- We talk business with our BFFs. YPs don’t stop talking about work at 5 p.m. In fact, most millennials value peer networking as much—if not more—than networking with seasoned experts. With more than 50 young professional groups in Cleveland, there is clear value in coming together with other YPs, even if we have different backgrounds, jobs or aspirations. As one network-builder put it, “a strong network of true peers is a prerequisite for success and has a clear impact on performance" (via FastCompany).
- We like, link and share. If my friend gets a new job, I get an e-mail from LinkedIn. I likely already their saw post on Facebook and soon I’ll be double-tapping the Instagram photo of their new workspace. In our tech-savvy, share-centric society, young professionals are redefining how we meet, greet and grow professionally. The value of in-person networking can’t be understated, but many YPs know the right way to do networking online. Learn more (via WSJ).
- Our networks don’t have boundaries. Over the last three years, the number of chapters in the National YNPN network has grown by 60 percent. When a YNPN Cleveland member wants to expand their knowledge or meet colleagues in another part of the country, we turn to the resource of our national network—and YPs from as close as Detroit or as far as San Diego are ready and willing to help. By networking beyond our comfort zones, workplaces and state lines, we become more informed individuals prepared to create stronger local communities.
Jake Sinatra is manager, special projects at Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the public funder for arts and culture in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Jake manages CAC's investments in individual artists and grassroots neighborhood projects in arts and culture, social media and organization-wide projects and events. Previously, he has held internships with the Musical Theater Project, Baldwin Wallace University’s Office of College Relations, and the Central City Opera House Association in Colorado. Jake serves on the board of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Cleveland and studied arts management at Baldwin Wallace University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in management and marketing.