Help me help other architects! This blog is an excerpt from the first draft of my book: Breaking the Box: Explode out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect. You can help by leaving a critique in the comment section below. And if you are just starting I suggest you check out the table of contents for an easy road map. Thx you rock! -Steve
An Unfamiliar Place
In April 2017, I found myself 769 miles from Charleston, in an unfamiliar place, in front of a room full of unfamiliar people. I was standing on the stage of the historic Leonard Theatre in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania. I had a microphone in my hand, I was wearing a tuxedo, my shiny Spectator shoes and my Brackish feather bowtie.
This was the Beaux Arts Ball for the Marywood University Architecture School. I was about to give a keynote address to 200 excited and mildly intoxicated Architecture Students.
How did I get there?
I did not attend Marywood University. I did not know anyone at the Marywood University Architecture School. I had no connection to Scranton except that I had been their for a wedding once. Oh…and I am a big fan of the show The Office.
I also was not a known face on the architecture speaker circuit. (Is there such a thing?)
So how did I get there? How did I get to be a keynote speaker at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania?
A Marywood student named Andrew Mitchell reached out to me in December of 2016. Andrew was helping his fellow architecture students plan their Beaux Arts Ball, and they were in search for a keynote speaker. In Andrew’s words, “We are seeking a young architect, someone who has gone through the licensure process to speak about their experience. Please let me know if this is an opportunity you may be interested in.”
Andrew had read a guest blog I had written for the YoungArchitect.com. That article was: How Shame Pushed Me to Get My Architecture License. I guess Andrew liked what he read because this article put me on his radar. After some back and forth over email, I agreed to travel to Scranton to be their keynote speaker.
To truly understand the genesis of my Scranton trip, we need to go back even further. The opportunity to guest write on YoungArchitect.com occurred after befriending the founder: Michael Riscica. Michael and I have become pals over the last couple of years and he was gracious enough to extend his platform to me. Which is awesome, because YoungArchitect.com has a huge following.
How did I get there?
My network brought me to Scranton. A network can be a powerful tool.
I had a blast that evening in Scranton. I delivered my keynote, and was happy to receive some applause and a couple of laughs. After the speech, I stuck around and hung out with the students. I was overwhelmed by their energy and passion. I made several strong connections that evening and expanded my network.
I love experiences like this. It had all of the key components of a strong network.
1. A Network is a Long-term Investment – It would be naïve to expect an immediate return with networking. Networking takes time. For example, my initial connection with Michael Riscica ultimately lead me to Andrew. This connection happened 2 years prior. This is also an example of how:
2. A Network works in Layers – Think, 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon. In many cases, your network works through 3rd party connections. A friend of a friend if you will. My connection to Andrew Mitchell was stitched through Michael Riscica.
3. A Network produces Unpredictable Opportunities– When I first connected with Michael, I was not thinking, “Now that I know Michael, I am on the fast track to the Scranton Keynote!” There may be times, when meeting someone turns into a direct opportunity, however most times it is unpredictable. And that is a good thing.
When I was a younger dude....
The phrase networking gave me the willies. It seemed too contrived and corporate. I now realize that your network is everything. Your network has the ability to carry you to great heights, both professionally and personally. Your network will take time, it will work in layers and the results will be unpredictable.