Why are networks so crucial to career success? Essay

Why are networks and networking so crucial to career success?

A good strategic network can keep you informed. Teach you new things. Make you more

innovative. Give you a sounding board to flesh out your ideas. Help you get things done

when you are in a hurry and you need a favour. Help you find the best employees, find and

attract opportunities, help you progress in your career, help you find a job and help you

position your organisation (team, department) to succeed.

The ability to lead and direct a team in one direction (if you aspire to management or

leadership or career progression) requires the insights one gathers through one’s strategic

network because as a leader one is required today to depend on and influence others in

order to carry out the vision or set a course to tackle uncertainty. This ability to influence

is no longer only relevant to managers and executives. With the advent of workers-on-

demand or hired guns being the new normal, every professional is quickly requiring the

ability to lead, influence and manage in order to make an impact quickly in a new job or

organization. If you want to change, you have to raise your standard with respect to

networking- you have to change your shoulds for musts – your career or income depends on

it.

3 types of networking you should engage in consistently:

1. Operational: Connections within your department or organization that help you

fulfill your responsibilities and execute daily, monthly and yearly –including all the

stakeholders you are exposed through work. (This is the one that is usually most

developed, but it is limited and tends to go stale when you move on to a new

organization and you have not built strong relationships.)

2. Personal: Helps you grow as a person. Through professional associations, alumni

groups, clubs (golf, dance, motorcycle etc…) and personal interest groups or

communities (cancer society, boys and girls club, big sisters, church etc…) are where

professionals gather new insights and knowledge they can use to connect with

others and usually it gives them the social tools and extra contacts to advance their

careers.

3. Strategic: Helps you determine career direction or business direction as well as the

people you need to help you achieve those goals. You typically have to be good at

operational and personal networking before you can excel at the third. The

best way to get a strategic view and get innovative ideas is to network outside one’s

departments, company, occupation, and industry. The ultimate goal is to build a

strategic network.

Career success depends on your network

When it comes to career progression and leadership your network is what puts you in the

sights of people who control your next job or assignment. Your network is also the people

who form an opinion of your potential.

The mistake most technical professionals make, and that includes financial professionals, is

they count on their analytical skills to make their mark in their career but analytical skills

will only get them so far. In order to grow within an organization or up the career ladder

they require relational skills along with analytical skills. You develop relational skills

through networking.

In order to progress in a company you need to understand the strategic issues not just the

analytical issues and that requires insights that a strategic network can give you. Your

ability to conduct strategic networking and therefore develop a strategic network depends

on developing your networking skills first through operational and personal

networking.

Three key characteristics to strong networks:

1. Magnitude: Strong diverse connections –and knowing how you are connected to

your diverse contacts.

2. Connectedness: The ability to connect contacts and how your contacts are

connected to each other.

3. Pulse: How alive is your network- is it set in the past or is it growing with you. Are

you consistently forging new relationships and developing new contacts?

ALERT: Networks tend to go stale when professionals change jobs, firms, family status and

even countries. When the forgoing occurs, the professional’s networks lag behind and it can

handcuff him/her if he/she lets his/her networking standards slip. For example this can be

career limiting for you when you need to find a new job or insight or need to get something

done that is critical to your current job. (A loss of a job can be devastating and also can be eye

opening because this is where the professional who loses a job learns the hard way that

his/her network is dead.)

Strategic Networking is YOUR JOB

Your job, career progression, job security and employability depend on it. Strategic networking is your job – without it there will come a day when you will hit the

wall and you won’t be able to get things done on the job and your employability will suffer.

As Career Performance Strategists at Transition to Hired (TTH) our team sees it repeated

over and over with tragic results -a reluctance to set out a networking plan and blocking

the time to build a network. The fallacy of “I should” instead of making it “I must”. Ask any

successful professional how they got to where they are and they will point to others.

When you raise your standards over others, and therefore become a leader, others follow

and help you out (that is in essence the definition of leadership, raising your standards

above others) -which leads to building solid networks. We see this self-imposed

networking limitation with professionals that hit career ceilings and now are fed-up with

the analytical part of their job, the constant repetition or brainless work. Unfortunately",

they do not have the leadership, the influence skills, the ability to network within an

organisation or outside their organisation for fresh ideas and therefore are terminated

because employers can get an analytical financial/worker who is younger and cheaper. We

see it all the time with workers peaking at 40-55 years old and are now long term

unemployed, some are lucky and companies keep them on until 55, but most are not.

When these financial professionals were working in their field -they never really

progressed or fulfilled their capabilities because they viewed work in the same way they

always did. Work was focused on the analytical aspects of the job, hard work, stay late",

produce, be a loyal and a dedicated good employee and unfortunately the relational skill

development was put on the back burner.

This type of work attitude, head down and work hard(the good employee), worked well in

an era where you were paid by the hour - today more organizations are seeking

professionals who can execute and deliver results –organizations today are adopting

paying employees for results not by the hour. Yes getting results requires hard work and all

the old traits of a good employee but being the good only employee is playing with career

fire and will lead to getting burned as our experience with clients at TTH clearly

demonstrates. The progressive professional and manager today see success as getting work

done through people. Having the ability to influence, lead and guide, and getting insights

through strong relationships from operational, personal and from strategic networking

makes for a better professional ME and makes for much better teams.

Raise your professional standards: Networking requires time, practice, giving and

asking

1. Re-allocate your time- it requires an effort. Requires that you are devoting sufficient

time and energy to making it useful and strong.

2. Need to practice now-it’s too late to start when you need a network.

3. Be prepared to offer help and advice first, be relational not only transactiona

4. Ask once you have built a relationship –make it a small ask.

5. Schedule it. Set-up a networking calendar. If it’s not scheduled it does not get done.

6. Attract as well as reach out.

Network Audit and Implementing New Standards

Write down the name of 10 people you have discussed important work matters, job search",

education or career issues with over the last 4 months or so. (You don’t need 10 – you

might struggle to come –up with 10). For example, for advice, to strategise, to brain storm, to

bounce ideas off of, or you may have met at a professional meeting or training or even with a

friend you discussed business say on the golf course or fishing.

A) Write down their names below

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

B) Beside each name above write the corresponding letter that identifies which

network classification the contact names are in, O:Operational, P:Personal or

S:Strategic

C) By looking at the names and the classifications above, determine the main

strengths of your network: (these could be operational, personal or strategic and/or

Magnitude, Connectedness OR Pulse)

1.

2.

3.

D) The main weaknesses of my network are: (these could be too much focus on

operational, personal or strategic OR, not enough on Magnitude, Connect

E) What are the consequences 1 year, 2 years and 10 years down the road unless I fix

it?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

F) What are the steps I am committed to taking?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

G) This is my schedule and calendar for starting (fill out calendar at end) and the

person who will keep me accountable is (choose someone who will keep you

accountable and check-in weekly):

My accountability partner is ___________________________

H) I will know my networking is successful when I achieve these milestones:

1.

2.

3.

4.

I) Add one new or existing contact per week you are committed to networking wi

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