You know the drill. Build your network. Develop mentors. Attract sponsors. Hearing about the importance of relationships for the first time often leads to a spurt of activity – target lists are made, breakfasts and lunches are scheduled, notes to follow up with people get added to calendars. And then, life happens. Work happens. And building relationships falls to the bottom of the list. I’ve met too many people who have told me that they “used to” have a great mentor or sponsor until that individual left the company, and now these folks are feeling the vacuum left behind. Maintaining and deepening existing relationships, proactively reaching out to make new connections, and investing time with new people are critical components to your long-term success. You are not dealing with a static universe – reorganizations happen, people switch jobs and leave companies, and needs and goals change. If you’re not building new relationships, chances are your network will stagnate and you will find yourself lamenting the loss of mentors and sponsors. The antidote to this, to quote an old song, is to “Make new friends and keep the old ones. One is silver and the other is gold.” Keep making friends.
To me, networking is all about making friends. Friendship is about genuine caring, it’s about a two-way relationship where each person benefits, and it’s about helping each other. Those are the same qualities that exist in the best professional relationships. Be open to making new friends at all levels in your organization. Think about those senior to you – how can you interact with more people and bring value to them? How can you deepen those relationships and connect on a more personal level? Think about your peers – who do you know well and who would you like to know better? How can you help them? How can you work together for your mutual benefit? Think about those junior to you – who might be a welcome addition to your team? How can you help them develop? Ask yourself these types of questions periodically – perhaps once a quarter. Block time on your calendar to create an action plan, because building relationships is not a one-time endeavor. Continue to monitor, nurture and grow your relationship network to create the career you want.
More information on this tip can be found in Lead Your Way: Practical Coaching Advice for Creating the Career You Want