Saturday, June 1, 2013
Career Makers, Career Breakers....Part 4
“No man is an Island, entire of itself.” – John Donne
In the final installment of Career Makers, Career Breakers, we’ll look at perhaps the most important “Maker” and “Breaker” issue: Networking
Career Maker #7: Network, Network, Network
Here’s a news flash for all of you high performers out there who believe that you can ride your accomplishments all the way to the top: YOU CANNOT MAKE THAT RIDE TO THE TOP BY YOURSELF.
And here’s a second news flash: WITHOUT A PROFESSIONAL NETWORK YOU ARE BY YOURSELF.
You may be the smartest person in the room. You may have achievements out the kazoo. You may even be a great boss and mentor to those in your charge. But, if you are not “connected” beyond the immediate circle of people in your work group, you are falling behind in the “race to the top”. And if you are not even well-connected to the people with whom you work, then you are not even in the race.
Career Breaker #7: Don’t Network
There are different levels of networking. The good networkers know how to do it in a way that is genuine and they don’t even seem to be networking. The bad networkers always seem to have an agenda and everyone knows it. They just try too hard. You keep waiting for them to try and sell you something or convert you. But there is even something worse than the bad networker. It’s the non-networker. This is the person whose professional existence is known by only their co-workers, whose accomplishments only by the boss and whose personality is known perhaps by the resident bad networker who will attempt to connect with anyone who has an open door or an empty chair beside them. Non-networkers are otherwise invisible. If you are not highly motivated to advance in your career it may not be that big of a deal. But if you aspire to advance at all, much less advance to professional greatness, you better figure out this networking thing and get on board.
So am I saying that all of the folks who make it to the top are just glad-handing, hail-fellow-well-met types? Not at all. But, I am confident that they were and still are great networkers. This is not meant to diminish the talents and accomplishments of Fortune 500 CEO’s, but I think most of them would agree that there are a number of other executives out there who have (or had) the talent and drive to reach their level of professional success. It just didn't happen. The difference often comes down to being in the right place at the right time with the right people. And if you want to improve your odds of being in the right place at the right time with the right people, you must “network” with the right people at the right times in the right places…and in the right way (note comments above regarding bad networkers.)
Volumes have been written about networking, so I’ll not go much further other than to say that if you are not spending at least one hour per week “networking” you are seriously short-changing yourself. And this is more than polishing up your “on line” presence or brand. This is personal and it involves talking to people in your industry; customers, competitors, vendors, investors and yes, even headhunters. Of course, there are things you cannot and should not talk about. So be careful. But, there are plenty of things you can talk about and you can build safe, ethical and responsible relationships; even friendships. The “race to the top” is challenging. You will need guides, counselors, insiders, good PR, supporters and most definitely friends along the way. It doesn’t just happen. You have to help it along with a good dose of honest, sincere networking effort. Even if you don’t make it to the top, you’ll have more fun on the journey.
So that wraps up my take on Career Makers and Career Breakers. If I had taken more of my own advice along the way, I might not be blogging about such things today. I might even be rich and retired, or just tired. I can think of no better way to close this out than with one of my favorite poems:
THE BRIDGE BUILDER
An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim-
That sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned, when he reached the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.
"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near,
"You are wasting strength in building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way.
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?"
The builder lifted his old gray head.
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him."
-Will Allen Dromgoole