Career Building – Creating Real Relationships

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We all know the stories of the teenagers that work to get thousands of “friends” on Facebook. Over time, this is achievable, but what have you really gained? A giant network of people that you have no real connection with and they probably don’t even know anything about you as a real person. Even if you did this same thing on LinkedIn, you have not really created a valuable professional network – nobody has any real incentive to help anyone.

What you should be after is a smaller network of real people who have a real connection to you. These are people with whom you have a real incentive to help and they have a real incentive to assist you…as well as the capability to do so.
Does this sound familiar? “I did not even know this position was available. It wasn’t listed. A friend of my buddy at Company X tipped me off to it.” Of course it does. This is how most people find out about job openings. Yes, recruiters are great and have their place. But, there is nothing like a personal connection to open career door for you.

In fact, that is EXACTLY how I achieved my current role. My company laid me off due to a reduction in force. My wife had a connection and they tipped her off to the fact that this company was in need of an Instructional Designer and hiring again. Within a week, I had the position.

Bottom Line: You need to invest in your personal network to grow your career.

What is your Network?

Every network is made of the same thing – people. Every job, at every level is about interacting with people. If you plan to create a product or offer a service, you need people to help you and people to whom you sell your service. People develop the technologies, write the mission statements, and stand behind company logos. People are your key source of opportunity.

Relationships guide your career growth more than your skills will. A less-competent person who contributes on teams and gets along with everyone can be better for a company than someone who is 100% competent, but can’t work on a team or communicate well with others.

The people you spend your time with matter, because they eventually shape your career. They become who you are and who you become. Here is a famous saying for you: “The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.” This is because their emotional states become yours. You imitate their actions. You also absorb their values.

There is an “I” in Team

Individuals make up a team. Every “self-made” person had a team of people that advised, assisted, and supported them. Bill Gates did not make Microsoft by himself. Disney did not create a kingdom without a team of animators. George Lucas did not create Star Wars without the brilliance of young engineers that made up Industrial Light and Magic. Now, nobody is going to argue the value of these visionaries’ leadership and guidance.

In regards to the value of a team, research has also proven that teams work at the level of their lowest performer. Thus, “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch”. Therefore, your individual participation may not be all that is needed for a team to succeed, but it is definitely a necessary component.

The point of this is that your capabilities are important to your success, but your network will magnify your skills.

What is a Relationship?

They come in different shapes and sizes.

  • Long-distance or close in proximity
  • Project or Long-term
  • Emotionally close or professional
  • Boss, co-worker, colleague, or subordinate

Relationships function differently based on their shape and size. Personal relationships are different than your professional relationships.

Personal friends are those you connect with on Facebook, share photos with, play Farmville with, or hang out with on Saturday night.

Professional friends are the ones you email at work. You have shared business goals, you connect with on LinkedIn. These people recommend jobs, collaborate, and share business intelligence. They don’t care who you date or where you went last weekend.

Most of us have a small circle of personal relationships and a large circle of professional relationships. You typically know people in one or the other relationship style. It is good to be friends with those you work with, but there are etiquette and loyalty issues at the heart of these relationships. There are times when socializing with your
manager or a colleague is valuable.

Building Relationships

Networking is not “transactional”. It is not about what others can do for you. Networking is not something you do when you are looking for a job or new clients. It is not about quantity…it is about quality.

Networking is about building relationships. It is about finding ways you can try to help others. Networking does not keep score. Most recipients don’t reward good deeds – but you do them anyway. Networking is just something you do all the time. Building relationships is like dating. You need to determine if you like someone, if this person has the capacity to help you build your assets, reach your aspirations, and assist with positioning yourself competitively. Relationship building has a long-term focus.

You must have two things for a relationship to exist: you must be able to see the world from the other’s perspective and you must be able to help or collaborate with the other person. This is very different then thinking about what you can GET from the other person.

The best way to build a relationship is to think about how you can help the other person first. To do this, you need to identify shared interests, ask questions, and find common ground. Your best move is to identify ways for the other person to benefit from knowing you.

Dale Carnegie might argue this, but a friend is not something you “get”. It is not an “asset” you own. It is an ally and a collaborator. Friends move in unison – sometimes guiding and sometimes following.

The bottom line here is to start thinking about “What is in it for US?”.

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One Response to “Career Building – Creating Real Relationships”

  1. Career Building – A New Skill Set – The Start-up of You « ASTD – Central Florida Chapter Blog Says:

    […] Build real and lasting relationships that create a professional network. […]

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