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The Value of Networking for Career Success - The 9th Characteristic of a Sustainable Career
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.

“People will always be your most valuable asset....”

—Dr. Caela Farren

People are your most valuable resources. The more people you know, the more opportunities and ideas to connect with in work and life.Introduction
I know a young finance director who is a consummate networker. She builds strong relationships with everyone she meets and listens carefully to what they have to offer and what they need. She has become my own “go-to” person for insurance issues, mortgages, car leasing, tax questions, pricing, legal questions, and organizational problems or issues. She helps everyone because she listens generously and makes strong, personal connections. This is not her job. Networking is part of her character.

The value of networking

Does your daily work require interaction with a broad group of people? Is your career success partially contingent on the power of your colleagues – both inside and outside of your organization? Do you have quick access to what’s going on in your industry and profession – trends and issues that shape future work? Are you accessing the help you need to develop your career and get your projects and ideas up and running? Do you have “go to” people in the important areas of your work and life?

Sustainable careers call for broad networks and alliances, vibrant knowledge transfer and value-added relationships, giving you timely access for learning and development. Networking is one of the most important characteristics of a sustainable career.

Networking builds competencies and creates strategic relationships while expanding your visibility and credibility. Networks create and sustain relationships to provide vital sources of intelligence gathering. It’s also one of the best ways to find a job, change careers or successfully bridge a reduction in workforce.

People are your most valuable resources. The more people you know, the more opportunities you'll have in work and life. The more relationships you develop, the broader your base of knowledge and your potential to succeed—that’s true personally and professionally.

Networks will:heading here
1. Help you get the job done.
2. Hook you into valuable information about trends that affect your work.
3. Bring you access to possible resources or mentors.
4. Link you to other opportunities inside or outside your current work situation.
5. Help you when you move, relocate, or take a new job.

What is networking?
Networking is a process of creating mutually beneficial relationships through sharing information, resources and support. Solid networks build on a foundation of trust and competence, gained by doing what you say you will do, by being fair, honest and professional, by being reliable and meeting deadlines, by keeping confidences, speaking well of others and being upfront. Come from a position of abundance and sharing. Be willing to collaborate rather than compete. Go the extra mile to give more than you get and your networks will germinate and flower into nourishing, trusting relationships. Network by showing others who you are and what you can offer.

Networks can grow organically
Great networkers ask question and listen for the needs and concerns of others. They offer assistance and ideas if relevant. They also let others know something about themselves – their interests, needs or concerns. I was at a birthday celebration recently and realized I was at a table with very experienced and high-powered women. Several of us had never met before. We each shared one thing we were looking for in our personal or professional lives as a quick way to get to know each other. Within five minutes I had access to the names of two new resources for a project dear to my heart.

Six degrees of separation is a reality in my life, but resources are out there - if you take the initiative and ask for what you need. I was waiting for a friend and struck up a conversation with the two women in a restaurant. They were both graphic designers from Florida Atlantic University. I had been looking for an illustrator for a children’s book I’m working on and asked them if they knew someone. They had a friend who had illustrated many children’s books and are in the process of connecting the two of us. The connection happened by being authentic and generous. We moved quickly beyond superficial chitchat to who we were, what we cared about and what we would really like to be doing with our lives.

These wonderful “synchronicities” (haphazard serendipitous events) seem to happen all the time. When we know what we’re seeking, a conversation or chance meeting brings the information to our fingertips. It’s as if a mysterious force draws us into a network that closes the six degrees of separation. How often have you experienced synchronicity? I’m willing to bet you crossed that bridge more than once.

Skills for Building Networks
Grow your networks through emails, reading blogs, interviews, web research, associations, and telephone contacts. Engage in conversations to sincerely help others with their projects and work. Master networkers don’t use people. They give more frequently than they get. They listen well in their daily interactions with colleagues, friends and family. Authentic relationships are the fertile ground for building strong networks. Listen for what others need or want and be alert to finding resources for others. Give generously. Great networking is a two-way street. Make giving part of your daily routine and you’ll have plenty of people who give to you when you ask.

Before expanding your network –

  • Know What You Want. Clarify the list of your needs and concerns. What questions do you need answered? What problems do you need solved? What challenges are you facing? What do you need to learn?
  • Know What You Have to Offer Others. Honestly appraise your knowledge and skills. Dave Opton of ExecuNet declares, “If you’re not prepared to put your needs aside and help others first, you’ll quickly wear out your welcome by asking for too much, too often.” What can you offer others?
  • Be a Good Listener. Listen carefully to others so you can match your expertise and resources with the needs of others.

Don’t be another Lone Ranger
Lots of people are still “lone rangers.” They believe if you don’t know something or if you don’t have certain skills, it’s not a good idea to ask for help. They go it alone out of fear of authority, weakness, or sheer timidity. The most vivid example of a networking failure is when Harry Markopolos, an independent financial investigator repeatedly warned the SEC that Bernard Madoff was perpetrating the largest investment fraud in history. Markopolos sent the SEC detailed memos, sharing his network of contacts and phone numbers of Wall Street experts whom he said would confirm his findings. An investigation of the SEC revealed a story of unseasoned people, uncertain about what to do and unwilling to risk asking for help. They never networked with others to explore their suspicions or press for more information.

Myths about networking
Networking is much more than just introducing yourself, exchanging business cards or trading e-mail addresses. It’s a myth to think networking will provide instantaneous results or only work for extroverts. Networking is a work in process. You have to keep at it to build a strong network. Networking knows no age or position boundaries. Don’t believe the fairy tale that leaders and managers have enough experience and knowledge to succeed without networks. Strong networks are needed from CEO to entry level. Outstanding performance is closely linked to broad and deep networks of support.

Given the pace of work, having a broad and deep network of people in your industry, organization and profession is a very strong aid to having a successful career.

People are your most valuable resources. The more people you know and the more people who know you, the more opportunities you’ll have in work and life. Be sure you know what you want and what you can offer others. Listen carefully to others so you can match your expertise and resources with the needs of others. Present yourself honestly and respond unselfishly with your knowledge and experience. Watch your network grow!

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, is Founder and President of MasteryWorks, Inc., - a leading Career Development consulting organization offering innovative solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Baylor Health Care, Brown Forman, Northrop Grumman, Reebok, Bayer, Sprint, Sodexo, Sandia National Labs, and CapitalOne. MasteryWorks, Inc., provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, e-Learning, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than thirty-five years, Dr. Farren has been a passionate leader around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate fifteen years ago, when she published a cornerstone compendium on career development, “Who’s Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, Inc., she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. She is the leading authority of strategic approaches which consistently deliver employee engagement and retention goals for her clients. In her current series, “Facing Changes of the Next Decade,” Dr. Farren describes the most important characteristics of Sustainable Careers.

For more information, contact Tom Karl, Vice President, or call us at (703) 256-5712.

MasteryWorks, Inc.
2230 George C Marshall Drive, Suite 122 Falls Church, Virginia 22043 USA 800-229-5712