Building Community and Your Career

This is a guest blog by Sabrina Rivera, P.E.

I was going to start with the definition of community, but I have a feeling you already have a few examples in mind. For me, community is something that is created through multiple positive interactions with a group of individuals. Over time, bonds form and community develops, as all members are looking for the betterment of themselves and the group overall.

There are many benefits to being involved with a community, both directly and indirectly related to your career. The obvious one is professional organizations, which provide networking technical enrichment and social functions. Indirect communities can also provide opportunities by introducing you to people who are part of your network but not anyone you had met before or people from different industries who can serve as mentors and friends. Additionally, working with communities indirectly related to your career can provide an avenue for a cross-pollination of ideas and be a source of inspiration.

My first real experience with building community occurred when I served as president of the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) ASCE student club. Although our organization had existed for many years, there were ebbs and flows with involvement. During this year, my fantastic team and I were able to increase membership and excitement for the club. A few steps we took to build community were:

  • Regular meetings and events,
  • Visible and dedicated officers,
  • Advertising,
  • Social events, and
  • Free pizza.

These factors worked together to build excitement in the organization, which resulted in a strong community of students. This is one of the most important communities to build that will impact your career for years to come. I have been surprised to run into alumni across the board in unexpected places. Even though I graduated several years ago, I am working with CSULB to host an alumni event in May of 2021. Building a strong community is a lifelong pursuit.

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Engagement with a professional organization, like ASCE, after graduation enabled me to join a pre-existing community of professionals who were driven and successful. This is important — you don’t necessarily need to start your own community. There are a lot of existing communities waiting for you to join! Interacting and working within this group provided many opportunities that led to my second job, many friendships, and an organization that allowed me to plan and execute large events. These are skills and connections that have helped to develop my career, and are especially helpful now, in times where internships might be harder to find and opportunities for direct professional level experience are limited. Showcasing your skill sets in an indirect fashion is a way to prove them. Ways that building community can be used to showcase your soft skills include:

  • Fundraising and managing budgets,
  • Project management and communication among multiple vendors and organizations,
  • Ability to meet deadlines and stay on schedule, and
  • Excitement and dedication to the final outcome.

Three years ago, I packed up my life in my home state of California and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. All moves are challenging — they take you out of your comfort zone and present new challenges and experiences where things had once been a familiar routine. However, for me, the move was easier because I had already gotten to know a community in Las Vegas through ASCE, which helped to serve as a landing pad. Knowing people in the community helped me to get integrated with professional organizations much quicker and improved my experience. The benefits of community are reiterated to me every day.

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Building community is also not a one-and-done effort; it takes time, patience, and dedication. These are skills that can be used in your career but also in your personal life. I have noticed that people can sense when you are passionate and excited about something, and this in turn makes others passionate and excited about the cause too. Take the passion for building community, and your career, with you in everything you do, and people will notice.

About the Author

Sabrina RiveraSabrina Rivera, P.E. is passionate about water in the American Southwest. She graduated from CSU, Long Beach with a degree in Civil Engineering and a minor in Environmental Science and Policy. Her time in the field has been dedicated to water, wastewater, and stormwater projects with public agencies. She currently works for the City of Henderson, Nevada, as a Utility Services Engineer focused on asset management for the wastewater and water reclamation treatment plants.

We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about building community. 

Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.

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To your success,

Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success

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Originally posted 2020-08-03 15:13:30.

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