When I had my first Skype interview for a job in advertising, my voice shook with nerves. My mind raced with questions: am I qualified enough? Is my work good enough? And above all, I was intimidated by the thought of talking to someone so high up in the company. Yet those nerves quickly spilled away with a few simple words: “I believe in you.”

She went on to say that this position might be a bit too mid-level for someone just graduating college, but that she would help in any way she could. She spoke with such warmth and honestly, and was genuinely interested in what I had to say. Despite being an experienced advertising guru at one of the biggest agencies, she spoke to me like a real person.

“I want you to find a smaller agency – one where someone will give you the time of day. And a boss that will help you grow as a strategist.”

People always told me to find those who will “champion” you. And I had definitely found that. It’s about finding the people who will make your doubts disappear, and shine light on what you bring to the table. And most importantly: finding the ones you trust enough. Her words made an impact on the job I ultimately chose, and I’m always thankful for that. To this day, I still e-mail her and check in every once in awhile to keep her updated on my life.

This could have easily been an instance where I was just another name on a list of interviewees. There didn’t have to be any words of wisdom, or any real feedback on my work. But the fact that there was made this the difference between just a job interview and an actual learning experience – one that paved a path for me to find an even better situation for me to grow.

I’m a firm believer that the connections made in college or while job hunting can continue to be valuable with a bit of time and energy. They’ll remind you that you’ll make mistakes early in your career and that’s okay. They’ll offer you truthful feedback that will only make you hustle harder. And they will inspire you to stop just thinking about something, but actually make it come to life.

Whether it’s the college friends who were always at your side, the family members who helped you grow, or a trusted mentor, it goes a long way to maintain these networks and relationships. Even the smallest of gestures can have a big impact. The following are a few pieces of my own advice:

 

  1. Load Up on Cards: Whenever I see a cards that I think a person will like, I always buy it. Doesn’t matter if someone’s birthday is in 7 months, or if I have absolutely no reason right now to say “thank you.” I know I will at some point, and when the time comes, I’ll be prepared to act. While sending something in the mail might seem like an easy thing to do, it often gets overlooked with the busyness of our lives.
  2. Don’t Overthink Emails: When I would follow up with past mentors, I would read my emails thinking “Is this too cheesy? Am I saying too much? Is it weird that I’m sending them a random email?” More often than not, it’s the thought that counts. If you see that someone just got a new job or won an award, it does not harm to congratulate them and give a brief catch up on life.
  3. Pay it Forward: If someone has helped you in the past, it’s always good to pay it forward. Whether it’s connecting with college students at your alma mater, or reaching out to an old professor about volunteer opportunities, you have the power to generate a gracious cycle of generosity.

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