My friend Josh Privette invited me to a fun event last week that got me to thinking a lot about the value of relationships.
Josh, the son of Joe and Kim Privette of Wendell, is the student programs coordinator at N.C. State. In his role, he organizes events for students through the Young Alumni Association.
Josh invited me to attend a networking event for a relatively small group of students. Each alumnus in the group was seated at a table with six or seven students. At my table, I enjoyed the company of students from all over the state, from the big city of Charlotte to the tiny little Rowan County town of Faith and as far east as Wilson.
The event was a nice change of pace. It gave me the chance to be around some high-energy young people and I got a chance to see a part of campus that didn’t even exist when I was a student at N.C. State. We enjoyed dinner at the Park Alumni Center on the Centennial Campus, that interesting place where academia and private enterprise are finding mutually beneficial ways to co-exist.
Josh told me beforehand that he wanted me to share stories about my career with the students and talk to them about how networking has helped me over the years. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about stories to tell. That comes fairly easily and with a group of strangers, I didn’t have to worry about retelling a story I’d already told.
Instead, I thought about networking and the time I’ve spent building relationships with other newspaper folks and people from all walks of life in communities where I’ve worked.
I’ve been fortunate to make good friends in every community where I’ve lived and my employers have always been generous in letting me be active with trade organizations within the newspaper business.
Those relationships have, more than once, helped me land new jobs that advanced my career.
The friendships I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy have crossed so many lines. They aren’t just professional. Rotary has helped me to develop friendships with people all over the greater Triangle. And my friends at church are a completely different set of people than the newsmakers I work with on the job or volunteer with through civic endeavors.
The best part of all these relationships, though, isn’t just about what good it can do me. Hopefully, that’s a two-way street. No one gets very far in life if they only take from a relationship. They have to give too.
And the lesson I hope I left with those young people the other night? It’s one I first learned from my Hell Week chairman in college, where those young people find themselves now. Ben Chastain told the members of my pledge class over and over: you get out of something what you put into it.
Work hard at your career and the chance to improve yourself professionally will come. Join a civic club and do more than just attend the regularly-scheduled meetings. Get invited to an alumni event? Accept the invitation. You’ll be glad you did.