Investing in your work network
Posted by Meg Bear on March 6, 2009
I can hear you groan on this topic and I promise you, I feel your pain , but someone has to tell you that life is not fair (and lucky for you, that seems to be my blog purpose in life).
I keep hearing people reminding us to build an external network to protect against a rainy day, the logic being that if you need to find a new job you will need a strong network. This is 100% true.
Problem is, we forget to mention that you also need a network to get ahead where you work today. Think I’m wrong? Well I guess it depends on your definition of getting ahead.
If you are interested in doing a good job, as measured by a performance review, then your need for a network is probably dependant upon your qualifications . If you already know everything you need to know to do your job, a network is not so critical to success. BUT if you need skills you don’t have, or to get results against a task you have never done before, a network is important.
If you are interested in being promoted, especially to the more senior grades, a network is probably critical. Most people do not realize just how critical. You see, a lot of companies have some type of calibration activity. This essentially means that it is not just your performance that will determine your advancement, but instead it is how others perceive your performance and potential that matter. If you are well networked you have a distinct advantage over someone who is not, in a Talent Review discussion.
So what are you to do if you are not predisposed to networking? What if you are shy? Or if you are just anti-social by nature? Well the first thing I recommend is to quit telling yourself it doesn’t matter. It does.
Just because it is hard and you are at an unfair disadvantage, doesn’t make it something to avoid. Instead, you need to do what your mom did for you when she started you in preschool (ask her, she’ll back up my story). She made accommodations for you to help you succeed. She might have introduced you to other kids before the first day, or took you to see the classroom early to build your confidence. She might even have solicited the help of the teacher to give you a hand making introductions. She found a way for you to succeed because she knew it was important.
Now it is your turn to do the same for yourself.
- Decide what is really important to you. Status quo or moving ahead. If you want to move ahead then, depending on your level, you need to make investing in your business network a priority.
- Enlist help. If networking doesn’t come naturally to you, get the help of a friend who is good at it, or ask for help from your boss.
- Give back. If you are in a more senior role, consider broadening your network to include people less senior to you. Open yourself up to be more approachable and accessible for others to get to know you.
This is not a discussion about technology, this is about how business works (and frankly about how people work). So now you know, what is your plan?