And How to Build Professional Relationships That Enhance Your Career
I recently lost my job.
When I got passed the initial shock, and reached that deep pit of vulnerability, I thought who do I know who would employ me?
Our online networks are bigger than ever. There are more ways to connect, and stay connected, than ever. Yet in a moment of financial helplessness or professional hopelessness, who would you call on to offer you a paycheck?
Unless you want to work for the family business or do errands for your friends, the answer may be in your professional network.
A friend likened it to bank account. You have to deposit good deeds, meaningful introductions, and helpful insight to withdrawal from the “account”.
I agree, and I think we actually can to take those relationships farther.
We must constantly demonstrate our value, character, and core beliefs in order to build relationships that will not only support us, but lead us to the next opportunity.
So, how do you build meaningful professional relationships?
1. Practice for the Professional You Want to Become.
One of the best things I ever did network-building-wise was volunteer for a non-profit board. It was an organization and community I was curious about. But no one in the community viewed me as a leader… until I stepped up, and served on the Board!
In my first term, I served as the VP of Events. This gave me a reason to contact the biggest headliners & thought leaders in the space, and offer them a microphone, stage, and audience. I went after the names & companies with largest followings to reduce the effort needed for event promotion.
It worked! We sold a record number of tickets.
I later became the President of the organization, in an effort to practice and develop my leadership & managements skills. Let me tell you if you want immediate insight into how effective you are as a leader, try gathering & shepherding a group of busy volunteers!
2. Build a Mentorship Blueprint.
If you can’t quite nail down your own personal mission, passion, or purpose…surround yourself with folks who are already focused on theirs.
18 months ago, on a quest to find a new professional mentor, I started studying the careers of folks who I admired. It became clear that each one had earned my respect because of a different achievement, quality, or strength.
I started to build my “Mentor Roadmap” by borrowing and adapting the traits I admired to my own style & delivery.
For instance if you follow a particular blog for the writer’s delivery, then “borrow” that delivery and apply to your own thoughts & stories. Or if you admire a particular leader for their management style, “borrow” her traits or communication style, and apply them to your relationships.
3. Focus on the relationship, not the connection.
Yes, it’s great to “know of” the CEO at XYZ ORG. Perhaps you even shook their hand once, or connected with them on LinkedIn.
But back to the original question…Would that “moment-in-time” connection give you a job?
It takes time & energy to build relationships that will propel your career. You must approach them with genuine thoughtfulness and consistency. Don’t wait until you need something from someone to be empathetic or grateful.
Approach every conversation, response, email, invitation — and RELATIONSHIP — with care and consideration.
You never know when you may need it in return.
For me, after losing my full-time job, I turned to my network to find support, encouragement, and opportunity. Not only did I receive all of that, but I also found passion, purpose, and a newfound mission.
It turns out my quest to find professional mentorship has led to my next chapter.
(It’s not lost on me that it’s also INDEPENDENCE DAY.)
Stacy Cassio is the Founder & CEO of the Pink Mentor Network. Stacy understands the importance of mentorship because her own career was built on the opportunities given to her by mentors. The Pink Mentor Network “Gives Her Career a Head Start” by collecting the experiences, successes, and lessons learned of accomplished women, and delivering them to women who desire professional inspiration, support, and encouragement. Today, the network helps thousands of young women who are seeking career mentorship.