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When do most people think about nurturing their career network?
Yes, you guessed it: when they’re desperate to leave their current job
and find a new one! This puts enormous pressure on you and on your
network because, unless you’re a natural connector who has built up
strategic relationships throughout their career, you’ll be relying on
trying to squeeze a lot of generosity out of a small and slightly
disinterested career network.
Ideally, when you are ready for a career transition, your potentially
cold career network will already be warmed up and poised ready to help.
Defining your career network
For me, your career network radiates outwards with you at the centre.
Closest in, are the people that know you well. These are your career network buddies,
made up of friends, close colleagues and associates. People that you
like and who like you. They know your strengths and wouldn’t hesitate
to recommend you.
The next circle out is your strategic alliances. These
are relationships that you cultivate strategically to help you grow,
develop and transition. They might be mentors or contacts within an
industry or professional body.
The next circle out is lukewarm contacts consisting of
people that have heard of you. They know who you are, they might know
what you do but they don’t know if you’re any good and therefore would
probably not recommend you.
The circle furthest out are cold contacts consisting of people that have never heard of you. They don’t know what you do let alone whether you are any good at it.
How do I nurture my network?
To nurture your career network, you need to be aiming for two outcomes:
The first of these, increasing the size of your network,
is about your exposure. A lot of people fear networking because they
think you need to be an extroverted personality type, happy to hold
court at networking events or to do presentations at conferences or
industry events. These sorts of activity certainly do build your
exposure but there are also other ways to do so if these are activities
that fill you with dread.
Other ways to build your exposure would be to use social media and write a thought piece or “top tips” article on LinkedIn.
Alternatively, you could offer the benefit of your experience and
expertise to a team in another organisation. You can even build your
exposure on a one-to-one level connecting with people as a mentor or
sharing industry / professional knowledge.
The second outcome you are looking for is to move people closer and closer in towards you in the centre of the network.
I like to think of the career network a bit like a business sales
funnel. A business sales funnel is a step-by-step process that enables a
business to bring potential customers closer to their offer and a
buying decision through a series of specific actions. I like to think
of a similar process when you’re nurturing your career network, moving
them through the funnel towards being your career network buddy.
What specific steps can you make to move your network through your funnel? Here are some ideas.
Identify people who don’t know you but who you think could potentially
be useful in your career network one day. Reach out to them and see if
you can meet them for coffee. Can someone further down your funnel
introduce you? Be clear about why you want to meet them, have a
strategy for the meeting and always follow up by thanking them and
keeping in touch.
Again, reach out to these people on an individual basis. See if you can
meet them for lunch or coffee and be clear about your intentions.
Perhaps you would like to ask them to be a mentor or you would like to
share industry or professional knowledge with them. Networking should
always be reciprocal so make sure that you know what the benefit is for
them as well.
Make sure that you nurture these. Maybe, one day, they will be career
network buddies who will sing your praises without prompting. In the
meantime, make sure that you are putting face-time in with these people
and ensuring that you demonstrate gratitude and reciprocity whenever you
Career network buddies
This group is already convinced that you’re great and will step in to
help with your career transition whenever you ask them to. You need to
keep these relationships strong which should hopefully be easy as these
are people that you like and who like you. Don’t forget that this group
can also help you to increase your network and keep filling the funnel
at all levels so always keep asking them who they can introduce you to.
What can I do right now?
Let me know how you get on with nurturing your network. Good luck!
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