There are five types of people you should have in your network. These are people who will teach, connect, and support you. Tell a look at your current network and see if you have at least three people of each type in your network. If not, be intentional in to round out your network by the end of the summer with them. Also, remember strong networking is about both giving and benefiting (read this blog for more on that).
1 – Buyer/Client/Future Boss. Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or full-time employee. Who are people that will contribute to your future income? Is there someone rising the ranks at your current company – meet up with them, gain advice, add value to their current/future roles (through your network, experience, or skills). Hitch your wagon to that star. If you’re a freelancer, who is the hiring manager/freelance resource manager that is building out project teams at your dream agency?
2 – Connectors. Some people are magnets for awesome people. Every time you talk to them, they say, “Do you know XXXX? They are doing something that you would be interested in.” These connectors know the growing businesses, the hiring managers, and thought leaders to follow. Listen to them closely because their recommendations for a book, blog, or connection can be a catalyst in your career. They are also great people to email and share an awesome project you just completed or share your goals for what’s next for you.
3 – Mentors & Mentees. Hopefully you have met some great people in your career that are a few steps ahead of you. Be a sponge around these people: learn from their mistakes, understand the risks they have taken, and get inspired to push yourself. The best mentors love helping those who are coming up behind them and reliving their professional journey. Which means, you should also be mentoring those coming up behind you. Do you have mentees that you are sharing your experiences and sage advice with?
4 – High-Five/SOS Tribe. This tribe gets you. You may be in the same or similar roles, work for the same company. These are people that you can call and say, “This crazy specific huge accomplishment just happened!” and it will feel like they have jumped through the phone to give you a high five. They get what it means to get an SOW fully executed or have a crucial conversation with a client, and they are there to support you in a big way. These may also be people that you call for advice on a problem or a new way of doing something. “This client just called and ask for a project-based quote vs. an hourly quote. Have you done that before? How do you respond?” This tribe is a great source of advice and knowledge.
5 – Diverse Thinkers. Is everyone in your network like you or do you have some people that are completely different from you? Currently, I’m working on a project with someone who is so far on the opposite spectrum of leadership theories. We talked for 45 minutes yesterday about theories I’ve never seen in practice. Sometimes it feels like we’re on different planets, but I always take something away from our conversations and know that those nuggets will make me a better leadership coach.
High-five if you have a well rounded network. Keep growing. Keep learning. And keep paying it forward.