Professional networks are tough to develop. For young professionals, this can be one of the most time-consuming elements of the working world because, between billing and babies, you are supposed to be hustling to happy hours and meeting people to help support and guide your career.
This challenge is addressed by different people in different ways. Some young professionals, for example, are working to construct their networks around helping the community.
Caleif Brooks is a rising leader at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, currently a senior associate in the CEO’s office. In his short time at CareFirst, he has led various projects that have helped him attain recognition as a problem-solver. Brooks has done a lot of interesting things to develop networks, including getting involved in politics and joining nonprofit boards. However, when it comes to professional networking, Brooks developed a great way to combine his professional development with community service.
Brooks co-chairs the Black Professionals Network Associate Resource Group. The group is an affinity group within CareFirst and, in only its first full year, is thriving with nearly 500 members. The Black Professionals Network is a completely volunteer-based organization that provides a multitude of services for its members. In September, for example, Brooks and his committee are putting together a financial literacy workshop in partnership with a local business.
“Young people need to understand that in order to build wealth it has to start now and it is not a quick process,” he said. “Taking steps to becoming financially literate is a deliberate and strategic process that requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline and planning. In short, financial literary is a subject that is not necessarily discussed in the African American community, and this event will be raising a significant level of awareness to the subject.”
The design of the group is one that can be modeled by all kinds of professional networks. Especially for young professionals, affinity groups help expand your network, your skills and your resume.
“To date,” Brooks said, “the organization has participated in community service events at Patterson Park Audubon Center, provided informational mentorships and professional development panels for internal associates, hosted happy hours, and is now looking to partner with local HBCUs.”
Think about your firm or business as a place where you can create a community. A great role for a young professional is helping to form that community and organize around things that motive others to participate. Brooks’ group balances a service mission with important business skills, which is a great way to engage large numbers of people in your organization. As Brooks’ example shows, it helps you help others and yourself all at once!