It doesn’t matter if I’m watching the Kansas City Royals take the crown or a little “Peppa Pig” with my four-year-old, cell phone companies seem to dominate television airtime. Each one claims to have the most powerful network of all. 

Although cellular communication systems are vital, they can’t hold a candle to the network of interconnecting relationships you can create for yourself. Being surrounded by highly-skilled, like-minded professionals can open a plethora of doors for young producers. A strong network will cultivate opportunities for collaboration with others in your field of work and serve as an invaluable educational resource. 

On the occasion I get to visit with high school and college students, I try to imprint on them the importance of professional development. There are essential career development practices, such as network building and internships, that become a student’s focus. At the same time, there are plenty of distractions and demands on personal time during this stage of life. However, here are a few ideas students should consider: 

In the slivers of time you discover between the distractions, spend some of it planning for your education and career advancement. Start with network development as a priority. Make the most of opportunities to mix and mingle with current professionals in the agriculture industry— there are many. In addition to building key relationships, this will provide ample situations to validate the career path you have chosen is the right fit. 

Make the time to attend events such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) annual convention, Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) research symposium and Cowboy College produced by Beef Today. Each of these events offer unique opportunities. 

Walking through the NCBA trade show and connecting with others can be tremendously beneficial. While there, don’t just offer a handshake and an inviting personality. Initiate real dialogue with the professionals around you and take genuine interest in their stories. Try to make a legitimate connection with the people you meet. Sincere approaches can create lifelong connections that begin to help your network morph into a full blown web. 

The BIF annual research symposium is an excellent event to network with leading members of academia and industry. Here you will learn about cutting-edge research in the cattle industry. Genomics has dominated this event, but I believe this year, it will have some added involvement from around the industry and young producers. 

The exciting fact about events such as NCBA, BIF or Cowboy College is that you never know when a handshake connection will pay off later. It may lead to a new career opportunity, a chance to expand your business or a project collaboration with others in your network. Doors will begin to open as you make yourself accessible. 

Finally, social media can help you stay connected with others, but business is still conducted between people. Face-to-face communication is critical to your personal and professional success. Take an active role in your network development by engaging other professionals in a social atmosphere. You never know when a connection made today could lead to an amazing success story tomorrow.