What Can You Bring To The Table? The Answer Is YOU

image1Today’s article is from guest blogger and college sophomore Katherine Nelson. Despite her young age, this political science major already has quite the scholastic and career résumé, including her posts at Class of ‘18 Secretary, West Building Senator, HCA Board Member, Research Intern at Spa Week Media, Ltd., Marketing Intern for Pastry Kicks, Consulting Sales Associate for True Gault, and Social Media Manager for Deals and Divas (whew!). In her article, she gives some perspective for young, aspiring business people on penetrating the real world. I strongly admire her outlook, particularly in the 2nd half when she highlights the concept of how everyone has something to bring to the table and add value to the conversation. Give it a good, thorough read. -Deborah

When do you actually enter the “real world”? Is it when you get your first job? Once you get handed a piece of paper and a stamp declaring you a graduate? Or do you just wake up one day and find yourself suddenly there, in the “real world”?

To a young person, this concept of the “real world” is something we are unaccustomed to, but yet we are at the same time. We’re taught that we must be prepared to live in the real world, as adults, with jobs and education, and other such things with which we need to be equipped. Yet, for all we are taught about the career we are going to have, young people have no idea how to make that jump into the workforce, into business. We just blink and suddenly we are paid, working adults.

That said, there is an underlying fear of the process of getting a job, stepping into the workforce, and essentially bridging the gap that will allow us to make that leap. Of course, “leaping into the workforce” is not so easy. It takes years and years to learn the necessary skills to “make that leap,” so to speak. Some things can be learned in school, such as public speaking and presentation skills, or how to prepare for an interview or an internship, but somehow it is assumed that everyone knows how to network and talk to people in a business setting. Networking is another skill that can be taught and learned, and experience is the best way to acquire it. Through networking, you can make incredible connections with people and obtain amazing opportunities from those people and their own connections.

You Don’t Need To Be Wealthy To Have Something To ContributeWomen at Business Conference

This summer, I had the pleasure of attending to Opal Conference in Newport Rhode Island. This conference brings in many Family Office and Wealth Management businesspeople from up and down the east coast, and is Opal Financial Group’s largest family office event in the world. Incidentally, I do not work in family office. I am a sophomore in college, I am nineteen years old, and prior to attending the Opal Conference I thought family office to the business world was something akin to pediatrics in the medical world. My mother, however, is a businesswoman, and it was with her that I was able to attend the conference. Of course, the experience was more of an apprenticeship than Take-Your-Daughter-to-Work Day.

I did not attend any of the keynote speakers, however, and most of my time was spent accompanying my mother in the events that followed, which involved talking to friends, colleagues, and those who had potential for both. For me, the conference was very much a learning experience and a business exercise. My eyes were always open, I was always smiling, chatting, observing the attendants, and, most importantly, learning about the trade. These are people who are worth hundreds-of-thousands, if not millions of dollars. Still I realized—upon being informed that family office, in fact, means working for multiple generations of a family, like being the insurance man for the Rockefellers—I wasn’t looking to partner with, buy from, sell to, trade services with, or work for any of these people. What did I have to offer? The answer was, simply put, myself.

My university just hosted its fourth annual Career Connections Conference—C3 for short—in which alumni from the school host panels, discussions, and talk to the students in a business scenario. It was our own business conference, specifically to ease the students into the “real world,” the world of business and networking.

There’s Value In A Fresh Face

There is a quote whose source I cannot quite place, but the gist of it is “war is not won on the battlefield, but by people in boardrooms.” When networking in a business environment, you want to present yourself—especially as a young person like myself—as alert, interested in the person and the conversation, and eager to be there. These add up to a mature exterior, one that tends to give a positive, lasting impression on the people you talk to.

From my own conference experiences, and even other business and networking experiences, I’ve learned that everyone can bring something to the table that is of value. Regarding networking itself, it is such a useful skill to have, and with practice, experience, and enthusiasm, and everyone can benefit from it.