By: Stephanie Hughes, MPH, CHES
Featuring: Collin Mays, MPA
If I asked a room of 10 people what comes to mind when they hear the word “networking,” I would expect to get ten different answers.
The first thing that probably comes to mind is a room full of people with name tags, exchanging resumes, or business cards. Networking is the activity that we all know and love, or hate, that involves the exchange of information in either a personal or professional capacity. We build networks every day to find jobs, mentors, and friends. This exchange of information makes it possible to form long-lasting relationships and can provide opportunities that would not be present otherwise.
We have all heard the statement, “It’s not about what you know, but who you know.” I remember hearing it on many occasions in both my undergraduate and graduate career. Then, “why am I spending all of this time in school, if what I know doesn’t weigh all that much?” While knowledge and expertise are important for us to mold our careers, it isn’t the only factor. If I have learned anything throughout my professional experience, it is that having champions in your corner who know your character and what you stand for are more powerful than any line on your resume.
Collin Mays, a member of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA), an organization committed to supporting professionals in the field of public administration, recounts his experience joining a professional organization committed to public service:
“I joined NFBPA because I believe in the overall mission. Often, black public administrators are not highlighted for their work. My goal is to help promote our profession and encourage the next generation of black public administrators. I realized that to pursue that, networking is essential to your career success. Of course, I encourage everyone to pursue as much education as possible. However, while education is the foundation of success, ultimately networking will help you land your next job and advance through your career. You never get anywhere if people don’t know you.”
I resonate very much with Collin’s statement. The National Forum for Black Public Administrators was my first real experience networking and building professional relationships. I never knew what it truly meant to network. I attended their Annual Forum as a scholarship recipient and truly had no idea what to expect. It was the first time in my life where I was surrounded by so many professionals who looked like me. And for some reason, they wanted to get to know the 19-year-old girl from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Throughout the conference, I met with people from all over the country that served in various capacities and spoke about my passion for public service. Conversations seemed to flow easily as such like-minded individuals surrounded me. Individuals I met have become mentors and friends as I pursue a career in healthcare and public service. In fact, this is true for many professionals as they recount the beginnings of their careers. It was at this moment when I realized the true importance of joining a professional organization.
“Young people, especially young people of color, should join as many professional organizations as possible. Not only will each organization enhance your knowledge of the profession, but each organization can produce lifelong friendships and professional relationships.”
If you are interested in a career in public administration or a related sector and would like to join a professional organization, please consider contacting the NFBPA.
The National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) is the nation’s principal and most progressive organization dedicated to the advancement of African American public leadership in local and state governments. NFBPA is an independent, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1983. With more than 2,500 members, NFBPA has established a national reputation for designing and implementing successful, quality leadership development initiatives.