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How Opening Yourself Up To New Opportunities Can Help Foster Business (AND Personal) Development

Two years ago, a referral urged me to meet with a potential connection over a breakfast meeting, a seemingly simple event those in business development have all the time. The woman described her as “a powerhouse in her field who knows everybody.” In my work, I foster relationships to drive business growth, so a highly respected connection that knew a lot of people and was willing to be helpful was intriguing to me.

Over our meal, she told me about an association that she thought I would be a good fit for. Naturally, I was a little hesitant. Not only had I never heard of it, but I had to have her repeat the organization’s acronym three times before I remembered. Nevertheless, it sounded like a great community of like-minded businesswomen and men. So despite not being familiar with the organization and feeling like a fish out of water in a vertical market, I decided to say “yes” to this opportunity and open myself up to taking the first step into something remarkable.

Flash forward two and half years, and my career and life are forever changed. I have grown to develop both business and personal relationships that didn’t exist before that meeting that now bring so much meaning to my life. Today, I am now an active member of that association and even act as the Co-Chair of the membership committee. I have been able to show up for those people who showed up for me and in return make beneficial introductions for them, thus leading to growing their businesses and connections. Nothing is more rewarding than being able to pay gratitude forward.

In business, it’s crucial to remember the importance of making connections and putting yourself in positions to do so, even if it may feel daunting. This notion is one I’ve always conveyed to my team, but more recently it really put the value of it into perspective for me. So I was inspired to write this testimonial reflecting back on that breakfast meeting and all of the doors it has opened for me. Although it was initially out of my comfort zone, the reward has far outweighed the risk, and I wanted to share some of my top tips for networking and getting out of your comfort zone so you, too, can make meaningful connections.

1. Show Up
The first part of accomplishing really anything is showing up, but what do I mean by this exactly? Showing up looks like finding that potential network, introducing yourself and your services, listening and learning about the people you are with, and asking how you can be helpful to them. So even if you are nervous and feel like your introduction wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, you can still be proud that you showed up because so many people in the same position as you wouldn’t have.

2. Raise Your Hand
Find out what events and programs your new organization offers and get involved at the highest level possible. Make sure you have a genuine commitment to engage in the network because it might lead you to an unexpected position where you get to meet and engage with members and potential members. Who knows? You could find yourself sitting on the board one day!

3. Own Your Role
Everyone has something to contribute. Find out what that is for you and make the most of the benefits of representing the organization. For example, as membership co-chair, I’m offered opportunities to attend events that I otherwise would not have been exposed to and have met many new connections who have since become clients. By owning my role, I’ve discovered the depths of my contacts and have optimized them to help my professional career and those of my team.

Never be scared to say “yes” to a new opportunity. The people you surround yourself with will take care of you because they like you, respect you, and want to see you succeed. Trust me, I’ve been in the business development market for a long time, and nothing makes me prouder than when I see my mentees forging new relationships and advancing their business.

Intrigued by the organization that Jill is engaged with? Learn more about Jill in her July Member Spotlight on Professional Women in Construction New Jersey’s home page!

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