Once you are employed and intend to stay employed for some time, it is important to build a powerful professional network. It is so easy to become complacent and stop developing your professional network when you have been in a job for some time.
But if you have recently been in the job market you will realize just how critical to your professional survival it is to have a strong network. There are plenty of tips and articles on where to find people, how and when to connect to them, and even what you need to say to attract and maintain your network. This article focuses on WHO should be in your network. Each of these people can play a powerful role within your network. Choose wisely according to the contribution they can make and the potential of the professional relationship.
Tips on How to Build a Powerful Professional Network
Here are the top 10 people that should be in your network
1. The Mentor
This is the person who has reached the level of success you aspire to have. You can learn from their success as well as their mistakes. Heed their wisdom and experience. This relationship offers a unique perspective because they have known you through several peaks and valleys in your life and watched you evolve. Choose your mentor carefully because their advice and connections can be vital stepping stones to the success you want.
2. The Coach
The coach is someone who comes in at different times in your life. They help with critical decisions and transitions and offer an objective perspective with no strings attached, but usually payment involved. You may have a career coach to help you get the job you want, a business coach to help you lead your team to achieve particular goals, a fitness coach to help you prepare for a marathon…Whatever you want to achieve you will find a coach to help you get there. Of course some will be invaluable and others will be of questionable value.
3. The Industry Insider
This is someone in your chosen field who has expert level information or access to it. This person will keep you informed of what’s happening now and what the next big thing is. Invite them to be a sounding board for your next innovative idea. Your trust in their expertise is very important in this relationship, as is their belief that you are genuinely interested and ready to take action where appropriate.
4. The Trendsetter
This is someone outside of your chosen industry that always has the latest buzz. It can be on any topic that you find interesting. The goal in having this person in your network is to look for those connections that spark innovation via the unconventional. It will also help you keep your conversations interesting. You might find this person among your circle of friends. But sometimes the trendsetter is someone you really admire who you only connect with online. That connection can be one-sided in that they don’t know you but you follow their thoughts as a stimulus to your own idea development.
5. The Connector
Are you lucky enough to have a connector in your life? This is a person who has access to people, resources and information. As soon as they come across something related to you, they send you an email or pick up the phone. Connectors are great at uncovering unique ways to make connections, finding resources and opportunities that most people would over look. Connectors connect people and share ideas and this is invaluable in helping you develop a powerful professional network.
6. The Idealist
This is the person in your network you can dream with. No matter how “out there” your latest idea is, this is the person that will help you brainstorm ways to make it happen. Without judgment, they are focused on helping you flush out your dreams in high definition, even if you don’t have a solid plan yet on how to make it happen. If you are an ideas person you will probably find that you have an idealist in your group of friends, and enjoy stimulating conversations with them. It’s great if you can find an idealist at work with whom you can flesh out ideas and make them become reality.
7. The Realist
On the flip side you still need the person who will help you keep it real. This is the person who will give you the raised eyebrow when your expectations exceed your effort. These are not people who knock down your dreams. (You really don’t want them around you!) Rather they are the person who will challenge you to actively make your dream happen.
8. The Visionary
Visionary people inspire you by their journey. They are similar to the Idealist, but the visionary can help you envision an actual plan to reach your goal. One personal encounter with this type of person can powerfully change the direction of your thinking and life. Very successful business people are often visionaries. Look towards the truly successful innovative people in society and follow them closely until you find a visionary that truly inspires you.
9. The Partner
You need to have someone who is in a similar place and on a similar path to share with. In fact, partners do a lot of sharing. This is a person you can share the wins and woes with. Partners will also share resources, opportunities and information so it is wonderful if you can develop a partnership with someone with whom you work closely.
10. The Wanna-be
This is someone you can serve as mentor to. Someone you can help shape and guide based on your experiences. One of the best ways to tell that you understand something is to be able to explain it to someone else. And sometimes, one of the best motivators for pushing through obstacles and hardship is knowing that someone is watching. It’s also very good for your self-belief when you know that someone in your professional network looks up to you and admires what you do and who you are.
Build a diverse powerful professional network
Obviously you will want to have more than 10 people in your network. Think carefully about the advantages of having a strong network and choose your network accordingly. The trick is to make sure that you are building a diverse network by adding people from different industries, backgrounds, age groups, ethnic groups, etc…that fit into the roles listed above. Building a deep network by only including people from your current profession or business focus leaves too many stones unturned, limiting potential opportunities.
Serious about building a strong professional network that can actually provide the leverage you need to make progress at work or in your business? Evaluate your current network and get started filling in the gaps. Happy Networking!