Brandeis International Business School

019: Investing in Relationships & Yourself

Getting to know the people around you

Nick Troiano has spent the last decade working to reform politics. He ran for Congress as an independent candidate in 2014 and now he’s leading Unite America, an organization that's trying to bridge the growing partisan divide by electing independent candidates to office who aren't beholden to the political parties or special interests. Then, maybe, they can forge some common ground solutions to the country's biggest problems.

From the Dorm Room

Nick became interested in the political world and public service during high school after participating in the Boys State program. That motivated him to go to Washington, D.C. to study American Politics at Georgetown University.

But near the end of school, the big question on Nick’s mind – as it is for many college students – was, "How do I find a way to get paid to do the work that I love around the issues that I really care about?"

Nick found a path through activism. Throughout school, he was an activist on topics like political reform, the federal budget, and the debt and deficit. And because Nick was vocal about these issues, especially the debt and deficit, a national organization offered him support and resources to incubate his projects and build an organization focused on millennials.

That was the bridge between his passions and a profession that Nick was looking for. He was able to transition from a volunteer activist to starting an organization to finding a job leading that organization.”We had an idea. We worked hard at it, we got some attention for it and then took advantage of opportunities that came our way to sort of formalize it in a way that actually allowed for me to find work.”

To the Boardroom

Nick was part of Unite America’s founding board a few years ago and then came on board full-time about two years ago to lead the organization.

Although Nick worked hard to pursue his passions throughout college, and he was able to ultimately find a path to a career this way, he doesn't think it’s the hard work that really got him to where he is today. He probably couldn't have gotten here without it, but it’s not what made the biggest difference. Because Nick says the world is not, as many of us like to think, a meritocracy.

“I think one of the lessons that I've learned is that a lot of development and success, professionally, is relational. Being able to invest in relationships, not only when you have a job ... but also just from a networking perspective.” Whatever field or industry you want to go into, just get to know people, even outside of the company that you work for or want to work for. You just never know how you might be able to contribute to them, or how they might be able to contribute to you, in the long term.

“Investing in relationships matters a lot, especially because the world isn't fair,” Nick says. “And I think that so much of success and advancement has to do with strong interpersonal relationships, at your job and otherwise.”

A lot of students feel this is an abstract concept – what does it mean to invest in relationships?

It really just comes down to how you prioritize your time. You have to put yourself out there. You have to create opportunities to build your network by going to events, going to conferences, and even going to things that may not seem directly relevant to you right now. Don’t take a transactional approach, though. Just get to know people. It may not be immediately evident, but the relationships you build now can open up important doors many years down the road.

Then, when you find people who you really enjoy or admire, reach out and try to spend time with them. You will be surprised how eager many people are to check in with or be mentors to young professionals and college students.

The Entrepreneurial Edge

Every week, we highlight one piece of advice for aspiring, struggling, and successful-but-want-to-be-even-more-successful entrepreneurs:

Invest in continued growth and development of yourself.

You don’t just graduate from school and then you’re all done learning, and you’ll be the same person you are now in 10 years. Constantly look for opportunities to learn, to build your skills, and to be introspective. Set goals every year, and reflect on them every six months to ensure that you're continuing to grow.

“If you want to be successful and really achieve something great, in whatever industry you're interested in, I think it takes that kind of consistent growth mindset to do so.”


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