Throughout your career, you’ve undoubtedly been told to “network.” While the activity of building a web of connections comes easy to some, for others the idea of introducing themselves and nurturing the exchange is enough to bring about internal panic. Whether you’re a master or a hater of it, have you ever stopped to consider the strength of your current network before? Understanding your network is key, as I believe people are the secret sauce to a successful career.
Let’s level set: I am not talking about some sleazy exchange of business cards when I reference networking. On the contrary, what I am talking about is a circle of people that you know, that you have helped, that you’ve supported or cheered on. A circle of people who would extend the same kindness and support to you. How vast and how deep is that group of people for you? When I was applying to graduate school and was seeking letters of recommendations, someone advised me to make sure that I was specific by directly asking, “Will you be able to offer me the strongest recommendation?” This person went on to explain that people may say yes and offer a recommendation, but not necessarily a strong recommendation. If they aren’t able, you will need to ask someone else.
Imagine you are applying for a job or school. Who, in your current network, would you ask for a strong recommendation and do you believe that they would be able to offer it? What is the contribution that you make that they would most emphatically endorse? Now the kicker: how many people would you be able to ask for the recommendation? Considering that most are looking for at least three references, could you summon that many? And as you continue to evaluate your network as you advance, consider having depth in your network of managers, co-workers and subordinates all willing to sing your praises. Clearly you don’t create this overnight, but you do, day by day, with each piece of work done and each relationship extended.
As you are reading this, you are identifying some answers. I hope they are the ones you want. Be honest with yourself. If you have not done well in this area, the good news is, it’s not too late. If you want a stronger network, extend yourself to more people. Offer help and support in a non-transactional way. Do it simply because it feels good to help others. Before you know it, your circle will be filled with folks ready to help you with the strongest recommendations, or support you wherever you need help.
Our theme song is “People” by Barbra Streisand