Rosemary McLean, Director at The Career Innovation Company, on curating important career relationships.
When it comes to careers there is no mistaking that other people play a key role; family, teachers, early career decision influencers, managers, peers, and inspirational role models all play a part.
Much can be done to build these important relationships. It’s about being true to yourself, reciprocity, being intentional, and having a goal in mind.
Some people find the idea of building a professional network off-putting – but The Career Innovation Company’s research – based on 7 career habits – has shown that people who feel positive about their professional relationships, and know how to spot opportunities also experience greater satisfaction with their career.
The idea of building your relationships in an active way may feel a bit daunting. Your employer or professional body should have resources to help you, but here are seven top tips to get you started.
Seven Tips for Building Your Career Relationships1. Have a goal in mind
Detailed planning won’t work but try to identify broad professional aims; align your career needs and interests with the trends or opportunities you see emerging in your sector as a whole. Ask yourself: Do I have the right relationships to achieve my goals?2. Do a network analysis
In practice our relationships matter to us for several reasons. Who do you go to for support and encouragement? Advice and guidance? Who can connect you with others? Chances are you’ll have trusted relationships with professional peers and managers.
Consider the depth and breadth of these relationships and make the most of your weak ties. First introduced by Mark Granovetter, weak ties are relationships outside of your immediate circle. These are more important for spotting opportunities and accessing new information than strong ties – your number of connections is less important than their diversity. Using a network mapping tool, like the one in the Career Innovation Zone, will help you do this.3. Take an ‘informational interviewing’ approach
It’s important to branch out, especially when you are looking to move into a new role, become more visible, or make a career change. Use day to day encounters, or approach new contacts to find out more about what they do. Be inquisitive, you’ll be surprised how much people like to share about their career or work. Set up ‘informational interviews’ to inform your career exploration.4. Pay attention to your professional reputation
Who can speak well of you, or have you in mind for opportunities as they arise? Be aware of your career brand; it’s what people associate you with, your reputation. Everything you do every day will influence this, even how you write your emails! Do consider the impression you are making, and don’t assume your work will speak for itself; try to ensure others know what you are capable of, by sharing your professional expertise and insights.5. Staying true to yourself
It’s not about becoming an extreme extravert if that isn’t you. Be yourself. Asking good questions and being a great listener can go a long way to building positive relationships. The Success Code by John Lees provides some great ideas for how to get noticed without overly selling yourself.6. Be selfless
The first principle of networking is to offer help to others. Contribute, before asking for support. Support will follow.7. Engage with your professional community
Being an active member of your professional community allows you to build new relationships and keep your professional development current. If you change employers frequently or become self-employed, you gain continuity of ‘professional identity’ and relationships that can last a lifetime. The more you get involved, the greater the benefits, so why not become a mentor, or offer to run a seminar, it’s about being bold and stepping out.