In the movies and TV shows, there is always that person when something goes wrong who says either "let me make a call," or "I know a guy…." These people have cultivated, over time, networks that can help them. And it is a powerful asset.
Not all networks are equal. Power networks are broader with deeper relationships and more connected contacts. Power networks contain connections who know of opportunities and share them.
Power networks energize your career and life. And you don't have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to have one. Anyone can create a power network. Here are three steps to cultivate a power network that can light up your career.
Who's in your network?
Studies show that your connections have a significant impact on your success. If you have a network of extraordinarily focused and intentional people in your network, chances are you will be the same. On the other hand, if your network consists of folks who are unhappy with their careers and aren't willing to try anything different, you most likely will feel the same way and not take the actions necessary to move forward.
If you are trying to advance, you want people in your network with that same focus. These people will prod you along and provide you with advice.
Also, as these people advance, they can open doors and make introductions. These go-getters tend to have excellent relationships with people at all levels. Many opportunities for advancement and speaking come from these relationships.
In developing new relationships, seek out go-getters with the pulse of what is going on and who positively relate to career development. Remember, in developing this relationship, you must be there for these people.
Also, if your network consists mainly of people at your level or below, you need to raise your network's caliber. Why? Because people above your level know what it takes to get there and may hear of opportunities to help you. Someone at your level might not tell you that they heard from a recruiter looking to fill a position a level up from where you are today. Your peers might jump on that for themselves.
It would be best to consider where and how you are networking and how you are when building relationships. Do you meet senior people and say nothing because you don't think they will be interested? Or do you go right into sales mode - trying to convince them to adopt you into their inner circle? Not sure how you are presenting? Ask a buddy.
How are you networking?
People often say:
I am out every night, yet I don't have a network that helps me get ahead or develop business prospects.
Then they are shocked when I say:
You are not networking. You are going to events.
Going to many unrelated events without cultivating relationships will not help you develop a power network. You need to have a strategy for not just meeting people but cultivating a relationship.
It is much more effective to join a committee and become actively engaged than to go to a bunch of one-off events. People get to know you and see how you work and think when you are actively involved. Appreciating you makes them more comfortable with wanting to help you.
No one will meet you at an event, give you a recommendation, or hire you. People need to know you to think about you. And better yet, you can show that you are a great connection by doing something for them first. You need to develop a strategy to cultivate the relationship, including adding value for them.
To create a power network, you also should be consistent in your networking. You cannot just turn it on when you need something. You must always be cultivating relationships and be there for your network when they need you.
Also, leverage your network. You can ask your contacts to help you with informational interviews or introductions that could lead to a broader network. When leveraging your network, be as specific as possible as to what you need.
Where are you networking?
Again, going to events or joining committees to meet certain types of people will not help you if your ideal connection does not go to these events or join these committees.
Guess what, if you are a professional looking for clients and join a committee with all professionals looking you are not going to find any clients.
Suppose you are trying to broaden your network to include more senior people to gain access to leadership and potential opportunities, and you are one of the most senior people at the conferences you attend. In that case, it is not going to happen. It would be best to determine where your ideal contact is hanging out, go to those locations, and add value to their lives. Value does not have to be professional value - it can be personal.
By assessing your current networks and how and where you network, you can determine if you have a power network or one that needs to be recharged. By investing time in yourself, thinking intentionally about your contact cultivation, and giving others value, you can elevate your network and career, and the result will be that you will be able to make a call to help yourself or someone else out.
Want to learn more about how to become the in-house leader you are meant to be?
Check out Sheila's 10 Tips for In-House Counsel Struggling to Advance.
In this guide, Sheila shares her time-tested tips for in-house counsel to release fear, jump-start your career, and propel towards promotion.