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If your 20s are all about figuring out what you want to be, then your 30’s are all about figuring out where you need to be– literally.  The phrase “working the room” is often used in reference to the professional networking behavior of meeting, greeting, and connecting with as many people in a room as possible.  And while you may be meeting lots of people, are they the right people? More specifically, are you in the right room?

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As the sun sets on your 20s and begins to rise on your 30s, assess the strength of your professional and personal networks as well as your skill-set. Identify the gaps and make a plan to fill them by strategically positioning yourself in the rooms that will help you meet your goals. A tip for you: the less people you know in a certain room, the more likely it is the right room for you. Need a starting point? Here are 4 rooms every 30-something professional should have access to and why:

1. The Classroom:  Within 10-15 years of graduating from undergrad you may want to consider making the transition from business leader to thought leader.  There’s no better place to begin this process than in the classroom sharing your subject matter expertise with dozens of coeds and it helps to have a contact or two (or three) in higher education to help make key administrative introductions.  Try starting with your own alma mater and local alumni organization events and outings.

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2. The Deal Room:  Contrary to popular belief most deals are not done in a big boardroom with mahogany furniture and big fancy leather chairs.  It varies by executive but make it your job to find out when and where the key decisions are being made about your team/department/organization and figure out a way to secure a spot in the room to watch it all happen.  You may have to think about opportunities outside of your day-to-day responsibilities. For example, maybe you serve on a corporate committee or volunteer to lead an important project. Access to deal rooms sheds light on the rigor of decision making when the stakes are high.

3. The Donor Room:  Periodically place yourself in a room where philanthropy is the center of attention. Pick a cause that is near and dear to you or accept a colleague’s invitation to attend as their guest–either way, make a donation that will guarantee your admittance and show up with eyes, ears and heart wide open.  Being in a room full of professionals who are doing well and doing good helps when you decide to step up your civic involvement.  A familiar face and name goes a long way when your board membership application lands on the desk of an influential donor.

4. The Members Only Room:  Membership really does have its privileges–and those privileges should be all yours as you enter your 30s.  Whether it’s an airport lounge, a membership-based civic organization, or a private clubhouse it helps to have access to these rooms, even if you’re not a member just yet.  You never know when you’ll need to pull a few strings for an last minute client demand or urgent request from the C-suite.

Once you have gained access to the rooms you need to be in to take your career to the next level, your next task will be actually creating the rooms for you and others to be in.  That’s another article and something to definitely look forward to!

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