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Next Article: Where to Network
Networking is, without question, the single most important undertaking for creating opportunities. You will rarely find an individual who became successful in their careers without the assistance of others. That assistance was likely not random or serendipitous. It was thanks to the relationship that the individual formed (or someone close to the individual – such as a family member or friend – forged) with that individual.
The benefits provided by those in your network are not always obvious. Examples of ways that those in our network aid us in our careers include:
- Interest Generation/Motivation – We may be influenced by the interests or careers of others. Those around us are often our biggest cheerleaders and critics. We may strive to impress them, prove them wrong, or appease them in their desires. That is, having these people in our lives peaks our interest in a particular career field. Even if these individuals are not personally involved in a career path, their affinity for a career field or path may create interest for us. All of these things can be the driving force that motivates us in our careers. For example, I frequently meet parents who influence their children by telling them they could be super successful and wealthy by becoming a doctor.
- Direct Assistance – Sometimes our connections take actions with the specific purpose of moving us forward in a career direction. They may provide support by helping with education or nepotism in hiring. That is certainly a positive if we desire to move in that direction. If that direction does not pique our interest at a given time, it can seem more like a burden than assistance. Though, it is rarely the case that any level of professional experience or opportunity is a bad thing – even if it is not the path you want to follow indefinitely.
- Note: I see this scenario quite often with helicopter parents who do everything for their children – from applying to school, checking their homework, proofing their papers or assignments (which is actually cheating), to active involvement in their classes. While there is a great deal of debate as to whether these parents are doing more harm than good for their children – it is undeniable that they are influencing the future career path of the children.
- Connections/Referrals – Our network is often responsible for introducing us to others or opportunities that create a career opportunity. Anywhere from 40-60% of individuals are hired based upon a referral from a member of their network. For this reason, doing everything possible to increase your network (networking) is essential to creating opportunities.
- Note: For this reason, those who come from backgrounds with large networks are generally presented with or able to create far more opportunities than those who are less fortunate.
- Opportunity Awareness – You may have heard the adage, “99% of success is showing up”. What this refrain seeks to present is, we must be present to recognize opportunities before we can work to exploit them. It would make it much easier when we had individuals actively identifying opportunities on our behalf. Often, it is through those around us that we learn about potential opportunities. Even if those individuals have no ability to refer us to an opportunity or connect us with influencers, simply making us aware of the opportunity is a major benefit.
- Note: This benefit is generally only possible if the members of our network understand our qualifications, our aspirations, and the types of opportunity for which we are searching.