We often measure someone’s online presence by quantity rather than quality. We’re interested in how many people follow you on Twitter or subscribe to your YouTube channel. Sure, these metrics can offer a proper correlation between talent and popularity from time to time. But other times, not so much.
Likewise, the numeric measure of your follower count offers little insight into the value of your professional network and how well you’re harnessing it for professional development. In short, it’s what you do with those connections that matters. My point here is this: building sustainable relationships can lead to career growth and professional development. And, frankly, help safeguard the job you have.
In this time of physical distancing — and whatever the subsequent world will look like — working, connecting, and learning have been redefined. Nevertheless, engagement with others inside and outside of your organization is even more critical. People are yearning for human connections to share in goals and overcome challenges — together.
Looking Inward at Your Organization
Whether your firm or organization has a formalized career mentoring program or not, you should find opportunities to seek out mentorship as part of your daily schedule. Mentoring should have a home in your professional development goals and continuing education training. Like I’ve said before, don’t wait around for feedback, seek it out. The same goes for mentorship from leaders in your organization who are often the decision-makers.
Be a salesperson for yourself. Yes, it’s time to be selfish and do what’s best for you and your future. Think of every meeting you have as an opportunity to contribute to the foundation of your career skyscraper. Connect with your peers, senior associates, partners, of counsel, and otherwise up and down the leadership ranks.
Diversify both who you meet with and how you meet with them, be it episodic career mentoring, long-term mentoring pairings, circle mentoring, and even sponsorship. Each connection provides lessons that will enable you to steer your success within an organization while constantly reinforcing your value-add.
Now, your career track will be well paved and constructed from within. Should your organization look to make promotions or reductions, you’ve preemptively established your place as a valuable asset. Signal to your employer that you seek out opportunities for learning to better serve the interests of the firm and its clients. Don’t wait for opportunities for mentorship to present themselves. Go make them.
Looking Outside Your Organization
Building a strong internal network is just half the equation. As you develop your external network, you are finding like-minded professionals to turn to for guidance while instilling your reputation and abilities into their perception of you. In other words, it creates the opportunity for you to firmly place yourself in their network.
However, cultivating connections with mentors goes beyond asking for advice and sharing stories. While it may be more difficult to engage with individuals from outside your organization, for rich results-based networking and career mentoring, the scope of opportunities is much larger and diverse.
Often, as you’re forging connections and sharing ideas, you will find someone with industry experience who will help you in ways you didn’t know you needed. At the same time, you will evolve as a thought leader yourself, putting you on a path to help others.
Fostering connections looks different for everyone, but every instance requires bringing momentum to the table. For instance, a static LinkedIn profile page might as well be a garage sale sign posted on a streetlight in your neighborhood. Without engagement, its value is only measured by the words on its face.
When looking outward to increase the quantity and quality of your network, diversify your channels. Looking beyond the usual social media avenues can bring new opportunities. For example, one of the most active new platforms I hope you’ve come across is Clubhouse.
While it’s an invite-only networking and communication tool, launched during a global pandemic no less, Clubhouse is quickly approaching a million users who are having audio-based interactions across industries and topics. Think of it as an open-source podcast where users can join experts on the stage to engage and share in a townhall format (called “rooms”). You’re free to just join and listen or to ask questions and contribute to the conversation. Best of all, you have control over how much you get from this virtual ecosystem.
One of the great values I’ve found from Twitter is how the barriers of status quickly fade away and allow you access to entrepreneurs, artists, experts, and so on, to share a moment, ask a question, or have a dialogue. I encourage you to access these tools – these disruptors – to empower your professional development path.
You are the best determinate of your career goals. Place industry leaders into your professional development portfolio to serve as guideposts and career mentoring assets you can turn to for advice and advocacy, inside and outside of your organization.