To know who you are, both personally and professionally is an amazing feeling. To have the confidence in knowing that conquering the world…or at least your little piece of it…is just around the corner is a heady feeling. To truly comprehend and be thankful for the fact that you can’t do it alone? Now that’s growth.

For most of my 38 years, I’ve considered myself a leader – I’ve encouraged, I’ve coached and I’ve inspired. But I’ve been able to do these things in large part because of the people who have directly influenced my life, both personally and professionally. I have built a network of people who have taught and directed me. People who have helped me develop into the woman I am today. I have been encouraged, coached and inspired.

As with financial security, we must build a solid foundation for growth. As financial professionals or students of finance, we know that without a savings plan, a budget and appropriate insurance, we cannot grow our wealth potential. My foundation includes a husband who supports me in my dreams, the FINRA Foundation which awarded me a scholarship to help me earn my AFC® (Accredited Financial Counselor) certification and my children who are surprisingly interested in my budgeting and savings tips.

In 2014, as a PhD student in Kansas State University’s Personal Financial Planning program, I applied for the AFCPE Symposium Student Scholarship. In my Student Scholarship recommendation letter, my professor included a comment, “I do not believe that Kate has met a stranger…” It’s true. I’m not shy. I believe that meeting and interacting with others opens up so much potential for friendship, development and opportunity. This kind of interaction doesn’t always come easily. It’s a skill that must be nurtured and developed.

Networking is about being interested in meeting others, learning about others and figuring out what you can do to help others. It’s about being outside of yourself and focused on who others are and what you can do for them. The same is true for those you meet. It’s a nifty little dance that has some give, some take and a whole lot of focus on building relationships.

Networking is going in to a room, no matter how big the crowd, and seeking out people you want to meet, or maybe people you didn’t even know that you wanted to meet. Once you meet them, sincerity is imperative. Self-deprecating humor can help break the ice, but the number one key to networking is intent – intent to meet others, determine their interests and see if there is a way to work together to better both of your futures.

I am so thankful for the experience I had at the 2014 AFCPE Symposium. If you are a financial practitioner, educator or researcher there is a student out there waiting for you. Someone who has questions about which way to go, how to do what they want to do; a student who needs encouragement to persevere and keep their focus on the potential ahead of them. There is a student out there who may feel that they have all the pieces of the puzzle together, but could use a little help thinking forward about how to continue growing their area of interest.

If you are a student in the financial counseling and planning field—the BEST possible thing you can do for yourself is to find a mentor. A mentor can help you develop needed networking skills and introduce you to others in the field that can help you as well.

Life is full of changes, developments, wants and needs…kind of like our budgets. There are things that we can absolutely do on our own. But why take the journey alone? If we can grow ourselves by helping grow someone else, then we can expand our network, improve our area of influence and better the growth and reputation of Accredited Financial Counselors throughout the world.

Guest Contributor, Kate Mielitz, AFC®, 2014 AFCPE Symposium Scholarship Recipient 

Learn more about AFCPE’s Mentorship program or donate to the 2015 AFCPE Student Scholarship Fund.

January 27, 2015

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