In my last post I described a way to evaluate your current network by looking for certain types of people. This is a useful exercise to assess the diversity and depth of your network. It also positions you to set some solid goals, which is what I’m talking about this week.
So you have a list of your current network and you have taken the time to reflect on the ways that these people can contribute to your professional life. You may have noticed some gaps, or categories that you couldn’t fill from your current connections. Maybe you noticed several gaps. What do you do now?
First, do not get discouraged. If you reviewed your list and found that most of your network consists of people that you don’t know well enough to know if they would challenge you or support you in a time of need….you’re not alone. Most people don’t know the people in their professional network at this level.
But if there are gaps, the next step you must take is to figure out what your current networking priorities are. At the stage you are in right now, do you most need a mentor? More client referrals? Someone to give you a kick in the pants?
It’s time to do some reflecting on your current career goals. Yay! Does anyone else get crazy excited about the idea of setting and breaking down your big goals? Or is that just me? Even if you don’t love goal-setting, it’s ok. That’s why I’m leading you through this. Let’s take it one step at a time.
First I want you to sit down and envision where you want to be in 10 years. What are you doing? Who are you with? What type of environment are you in? What work are you thrilled to get to do every day? Get specific. Write this stuff down. Close your eyes and see yourself in your ideal environment doing the type of work you can only dream of doing. Note everything you can about this vision. Spend at least 10 minutes on this exercise.
Are you back? Ok great, now break down this vision – in order to make this happen, what do you need to accomplish in the next 5 years? In the next 3 years? In the next year? In the next 90 days? Again, get specific and write down these answers. Keep them where you’ll be able to readily access them again.
Done with that? Awesome! Now, in order to achieve the basic goals you have just set for the next 90 days, what type of support do you really need? For example, if you have a goal of bringing in 5 new clients, you will want to connect with different people than if you have a goal of getting a promotion in your organization or handling a big project.
Now look again at the categories I listed in my last post, and at your list of your people that fall under each category. You have some specific goals now, so you can narrow down your focus. Which category do you need to focus on adding to or expanding in your network right now? Is it mentors? Potential referral sources? Or encouragers?
Get a basic idea of the type of person you’re looking to meet. Bonus points for each layer of specificity you can add. (i.e., I need to meet more financial planners who work with young couples, or I need to meet more experienced family law attorneys who are familiar with adoption law, and who might be open to becoming a mentor for me.) Again, write this down somewhere where you’ll see it again.
Now you have a solid networking goal. Next time we’ll dig in and start finding the people that will fill out that category.