Driver Ambassador: Building Your Network
by Kellylynn McLaughlin, on Mar 18, 2022 3:15:02 PM
Take a listen to the podcast version below.
As those in the trucking industry know, the Post-Trip Inspection is a time to check and see if anything has changed with your equipment since you began your trip and if there are any items that need to be addressed before continuing on down the road. It’s a time to reflect, assess, and plan what’s next.
Recently, I gave a presentation about building your network. I am a strong believer in keeping one foot in the “learning” pool and another in the “mentor” pool. I really like interacting with people and enjoy hearing their stories, so building relationships isn’t out of my comfort zone. I also believe it is important to invest in yourself. My experience is that no one is going to invest in you if you are not willing to invest in yourself. One way to do this is to build your network, both for professional development, AND for your own personal growth. I encourage you to think BIG when you are looking to expand and create your network … think out of the box!
The thought has also crossed my mind, that in an obtuse way, companies are not “things,” they are living organisms made up of humans. An organization’s decisions are made by people. Change is created by people. Networks are made by connections with people. So, if you want to have an impact, or to be part of an organization, then you should connect with its people.
This organization’s success, like many movements, is dependent upon:
- staying connected to its membership
- making sure its initiatives are relevant
- building a network for its members to work together on issues
Building a strong network is vital on a variety of levels.
My network is huge and very diverse. Early on in this industry, I chose to make WIT part of my network, along with many other individuals and organizations. I find that I often learn the most from those who are completely different from me or from those who have followed a different path.
I recently went to my carrier’s headquarters in Green Bay to have some work done on my tractor. I knew I would have some time and took the opportunity to work on building my network! I reached out to several individuals to request a bit of time to visit and learn about the business from their perspective.
From some of my previous careers, I’ve learned cross-visits are valuable learning experiences for all parties. While visiting the headquarters, I was able to do 30 minute “sit-ins” with four different associates that are in a support role to professional drivers. Sit-ins are basically sitting next to someone while they do their job. They explain what they are doing and more importantly the “why.” What a great opportunity to learn more about the business, other roles and how we are all connected. Doing a sit-in also gave me the chance to ask, “What can I do as a driver to make your job easier?” The associates I visited with also gave the me the opportunity to offer suggestions or ask my “why” questions I had for them. I learn something new every day.
Besides connecting with several different team members, I was also able to touch base with several key individuals I consider to be my mentors. We’ll come back to mentors as part of building your network.
One of the connections I made, quite by happenstance in the cafeteria, was with the purchasing director. WOW, he has traveled such a diverse path through our industry and he interacts with all departments! What I learned is that purchasing touches all departments. I should have known that, right?! Interestingly, he also works directly with the engineers testing and recommending the products installed into the company tractors! What they are doing is fascinating and the next chance I get to do a sit-in with one of the engineers I am taking it!
One of the key opportunities I asked for was the chance to visit with the CEO & President and the Executive VP of Transportation & Logistics for Schneider. I am so proud to work for a company that embraces connecting with its people and thankful they made themselves available to me. Having the chance to hear their perspectives on broader issues affecting the industry and drivers was priceless. I saw them take a few notes and am fairly certain that being able to visit with one of their drivers was important to them as well. Remember – organizations are made up of people and it is people who make decisions.
As I’ve shared, I make a conscious effort to continually build my network and I am constantly on the lookout for those moments to connect – you just never know where those valuable moments will come from.
Here’s where mentors come into play. Mentors are key players in your network. I recognize that I need a variety of unique mentors to challenge me to grow in ways that are often hard and to guide me though experiences they have already encountered. If there is someone in your network that you view as a mentor or want to be your mentor, it is important to say the words “Will you be my mentor?” It sets the stage for the relationship and expectations. Need I say – do not forget to thank your mentors as well.
To wrap up, I am a better team member by learning as much as I can from mentors, co-workers and other leaders. I am better prepared and able to participate at a higher level … and the better informed I am, the more connections I make. I hope that my voice is more relevant as a result.
This month, I am headed to the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY to do more network building. Industry trade shows and conferences provide a literal sea of connections. I sometimes feel like krill in those seas, but I love it! I am looking forward to seeing old friends, making new ones, expanding my professional network, learning and celebrating with my female peers at WIT's Salute to Women Behind The Wheel on Friday night. Come join us or just stop by our booth (#40672 inside the North Wing lobby) or the WITney trailer (located right outside the North Wing lobby doors) to say hello.
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