Now, let’s make sure your name never makes the list of people caught “pants down” with no network to help pick them, or their pants, up.
Rick, Lila, Adam, Chloe, and many like them, are highly competent professionals. They go above and beyond what’s called for. They receive outstanding performance reviews. They are promoted, awarded, rewarded and publicly recognized. They love the work they do, and they do it well. Their careers are moving forward and upward, until one day they aren’t. Soon thereafter, they are sitting with their manager and an HR representative having THAT conversation about the severance package. Then there are those who receive the pink slip with no severance and no time to build the much needed network.
Organization politics – the power dynamics that determine who decides the rules of play, who’s in and who’s out, and the business strategy going forward – don’t hold steady. A new sheriff comes to town and everything changes.
Consider Sharon who is (or was) the HR business partner to Mike, a senior vice-president. He recognizes Sharon’s talent for developing and advising up-and-coming leaders. Mike provides Sharon with the right training and coaching to increase her skills. Within several years she is developing and running worldwide programs in leadership, and she is being utilized as a coach and consultant as well.
Sharon’s external coach introduces Sharon to Vicki, suggesting they might establish a mentoring relationship, which they do. But Sharon is so immersed in her work, that she meets with Vicki only once, thereby replacing her mentor with a missed opportunity.
New Sheriff in Town
Enter Karl, the new head of HR and Sharon’s manager, until he inserts another manager between them. Karl prefers to outsource much of the work that Sharon has been doing. This change takes place gradually. At first, Sharon doesn’t notice as demand for her services is growing and she is busy meeting it, with joy and pleasure. She is flying to Europe and the Far East to teach people how to work more effectively with customers by understanding variations in brain dominance and related thought processes.
Two years after Karl’s arrival, Sharon is in THAT conversation with her manager. The severance package is good and will sustain Sharon for at least six months. Her stocks will vest before she leaves, so her financial situation will be better than it is now. So what’s the problem?
Sharon has no external network. None. Nada. Zip. Why does this matter? Because seventy percent of people attain their next job by way of networking. Does Sharon have to work? As the single mother of 3 school-age children, who receives no child support, Sharon needs a full-time role with benefits.
Unfortunately she is not in the best position to begin developing her external network and find the people who will guide her to her next role. The best time to develop an external network is when you don’t need anything from the people in it, and when you are in a position to offer mutual support to people whose work and interests mesh with yours. Then, keep it alive and growing. It’s not difficult nor terribly time-consuming. Your network will be invaluable if ever needed and will also provide a broader perspective and added intelligence that benefits your current work.
Six Network Building Tips for Busy Professionals
- Attend or speak at a professional conference at least once a year. Stay in touch with three people you enjoyed meeting. (1-2 days per year)
- Join a local professional organization and get active on a committee. (2-3 hours per month)
- Make a call, send an email, or use social media to connect with someone in your network every two weeks. Put it in your calendar as you do with your other work commitments (10 minutes every other week)
- Meet someone for coffee, lunch or dinner at least once a quarter. Once a month is even better. Introduce people in your network to each other and make it a small group event, so you, and they, can grow more relationships in one outing. (2 hours per month or per quarter)
- Call the person in your network who is working on a challenging project and offer to be a sounding board or identify references that will help. (30 minutes each quarter)
- Work with a mentor external to your company. You may find her through professional organizations, by asking people in your expanded network, or by applying to 3Plus International’s mentoring program. (1 hour per month)
That’s a grand total of 11.5 hours per quarter. Can you afford it?
Sharon says, “I can’t afford not to.”