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Expand Your Circle!

You are the combination of the five people you spend the most time with!! Let that sink in for a minutedoes that surprise you…does it scare you? Does it open your eyes? The old adage rings true that we are the company we keep. We begin to grow when others around us are growing as well. Sometimes this means expanding your circle into a group that knows more about a topic than you. Maybe you know nothing about the topic but have always wanted to learn. If you are always the smartest person in the group – find a group that pushes themselves in ways you've never considered. If you are the most motivated, most encouraging, hardest working, most dedicated person in the group – find a group that is doing it harder, faster, and longer than you.

Surrounding yourself with people who are doing things better than you – makes you better faster. You start improving without even knowing it. Motivation can be contagious and as you are around people who are highly motivated; you will find yourself wanting to learn and experience more. One of the most fulfilling relationships can be with a mentor but those don't show up on the doorstep the first week of a new venture.

Your best mentors don’t have to know who you are. Start by being your own mentor! You have the power to read, Google, and research everything that will improve you. No one is stopping you from learning as much as you can about a topic. Mentors are wonderful to have in-person and contribute enormously to your personal and professional lives but you have the responsibility of seeking the knowledge. The campus or public library are wonderful places to start! When wanting to learn more about a topic – it can be overwhelming. You want to know as much as you can about the topic but have no idea where to start to devour the knowledge. Getting a library card narrows the options and allows you the chance to read a variety of content and decide on a direction. Many libraries now have digital and audio borrow options. This is a great way to become exposed to the current topics in the book to help again narrow your focus. It will also give you exposure to different authors and hot topics in your content area. Most authors also have online options with blog posts, interviews, and reading lists. Podcasts, YouTube videos, and Ted Talks are all great ways to learn more about your interest. With these resources always available to you for free makes ignorance a choice. Listen, watch, read, and talk to people about what you are learning. Find everything you can. What often scares us is what we don't know and the questions we can't answer. Make a commitment to downloading and listening to 3 podcasts each week. Find the time to listen while you drive or exercise. Mentor yourself!!

When the student is ready – the teacher will appear. I can promise you that if you start expanding your circle and your knowledge on the topics you are most passionate about – your mentors will appear.

Meet on Teams! The past year's pandemic has kept us from the casual coffee date but made quick virtual meetings more comfortable. If you are interested in visiting with a professional you admire or expert in your new field of interest – politely ask them to share 15-30 minutes with you on a Teams meeting. Most people are happy to share their knowledge with you, if asked politely and kept to the 15-30min schedule. The professional way to set up a virtual meeting is to send a brief email asking for 15-30minutes of their time to discuss the area of shared interest. This is a good place to write 1-2 sentences expressing your interest in their topic and how their knowledge will benefit you greatly.

If you have 3-5 questions you would like to have answered, send the questions in the email. Try keeping the questions in bulleted format and succinct. If the professional agrees to meet and gives you a good time, respond with a meeting link and immediately put it on your calendar. Remember to let your guest do most of the talking. You learn more by listening. If they want to learn more about you – that is a great reason for a follow-up meeting. Remember to be very respectful of their time and keep your meeting to the agreed time limit.

Expanding your circle often means expanding your comfort zone, each of which are scary and rewarding. If you committed to connecting with one new person each month – think of the knowledge and network you would gain in a single year. Expand your circle! 

This blog was provided by Dr. Veronica Manning, Dean for Leadership and Organizational Development.