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You have a full time job within a successful company. You get a steady paycheck every other week. You come in to work each day (maybe even a little early), work very hard, and put in the hours expected of you (maybe even a few more).  Your performance reviews have been positive. You have a few friends in the organization: the trusted and familiar faces from your department with whom you can go grab some lunch or an after-work drink and share a few war stories and company gossip. You might even be on the company softball team or get together with a few of your colleagues a few times a year for dinner. And you know a few other people in other companies and industries – maybe your neighbors or some friends from school. You’re doing everything right to be successful, keep your career going, and be consider a valued part of the team, right?

Think again.

Are you actively building your Operational, Strategic, and Personal networks, both inside and outside the company? Not sure what I mean?  Here’s a quick explanation:

  • Operational Network = the people who can help  you do your current job better.
  • Strategic Network = the people who can help you move to the next level of success, either inside the organization or elsewhere.
  • Personal Network = the extremely loyal people in your world who are interested in supporting you along the way, always have your back, are willing to mentor you, listen to you, provide counsel, and help you through both the good and bad times.   [Source: “How Leaders Create & Use Networks” – Ibarra / Hunter, Harvard Business Review]

Most people don’t make it a priority to have these connections.  And it’s hurting not only the organization, but also you.  Don’t believe me?  Read on and see why people with strong, strategic and diverse networks could be lapping you professionally:

  1. People who build, grow, and maintain robust professional networks have access to more people, news, knowledge, wisdom, and resources within the organization and the industry.  This helps both the organization and the individual.
  2. Connection and collaboration within organizations tends to make teams stronger, more loyal, and more effective.
  3. Conversing regularly – beyond company gossip and football scores –  helps ideas and innovation flourish and spread.  Check this out: During an historical analysis of 2,000 famous inventors and scientists Dean Keith Simonton, Ph. D., Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, came up with the theory of “The Myth of the Lone Genius.”  He discovered that successful innovators throughout time have been surrounded by other smart people with whom they talked and collaborated on a daily basis. (Alas, my friends, this is one reason why I’m so big on the concept of Intentional Networking!)
  4. Your “connectedness quotient” (yes, I just made that term up) is becoming more and more valuable to organizations. What’s more, the people who do the hiring know this and are consider more frequently your “knowledge network” as part of performance review criteria and decision-making when hiring.  (Quick assessment: What kind of a score would you give yourself for the quality, strength, depth, breadth, and diversity of your network on a scale of 1 to 10?)
  5. Should a well-networked person ever be laid off, her chances of hearing about other opportunities (and being consider for same) will likely be exponentially higher than yours.  Because – remember – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. That’s been true for centuries and it hasn’t changed.
  6. And if you’re still poo-pooing what I’m saying here, check out this little tidbit:  In a study by Susan Toker, Ph. D. with Tel Aviv University published in Health Psychology, 800 people who had supportive networks and relationships had a 41% lower risk of dying within the next two decades.

Still not convinced?  Imagine this: you’ve just discovered you’ve been sacked. Or if you’re a business owner,  you’re looking at your financials and your business is failing.  You need another way to keep a roof over your head and maybe that of your loved ones.  What are you going to do first?  (Besides have a moment of panic.) You’re going to reach out to your network of friends, family, and contacts to ask for help, leads, ideas – anything that could help you uncover new career possibilities. (We’ve all done this and we’ve all been the recipients of the group email that screams, “Help,  I need a job!”) Who will you reach out to? Will they be able to help you? Will they want to? Because, be honest, when was the last time you reached out to them for no reason other than to check in and say hello, ask them how they’re doing, or to do something nice for them?  Perhaps it’s been awhile.

Maybe it’s time to change that.  Or at least evaluate where  you stand network-wise.  We can all improve in how, where and with whom we connect and how we grow those connections.
Need some help getting started?  Read my award-winning book The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business. You can find it at most online retailers and at BookPeople in Austin, TX.  And very soon, my follow-up reader The Intentional Networker Collection will be available on Kindle.   Stay tuned for details!