Professional Education and Career Blog

Building the Network, Part Two: Who Should Be In Your Network

whoyouknowIn part one of this two-part series, we discussed tips for expanding your professional contacts. In part two, we discuss some of the various personalities that ought to be in your professional network to give you a well-rounded range of experience. Having more friends in your profession is always a plus, but there are specific areas that can be particularly helpful in different circumstances. Fleshing out some of the weak spots in your advice circle can pay significant long-term dividends.

The Advantages of Diversity

Everyone has different experiences they have lived through in their lives, which means you can find different perspectives of value. The trick is adding people from different backgrounds, industries, age groups, ethnicity, etc. Only primarily having people with similar experiences to yourself will seldom give you any surprises.

Who to Have In Your Circle

Here are some general classes of people that will help diversify your contacts.

  • Industry Expert – The Expert is the person in your field who knows the industry and/or has access to top-level information. These people can be a great sounding board for your ideas and can help to show you where the landmines might be. They can also be an invaluable source of what is happening and what the future may hold.
  • Networker – This person is the one who knows everyone. They are particularly personable and can cross a wide variety of fields and industries. They can talk just as easily to the janitor as to the CEO. Networker has access to all sorts of important information, and they delight in sharing it with others. They can help you come in contact with others or find resources that might otherwise be difficult to find or overlooked.
  • Blue Sky – Blue sky is a person who will listen to your most far-out ideas and not only won’t laugh at them, but will help you brainstorm. No idea is too big or too outlandish for Blue Sky, which can help inspire you to dream big as well. These people typically aren’t detail oriented, but they can help flesh out the big picture of how things should look once you get there.
  • Challenger – This person is the flip-side to Blue Sky. They are detail oriented, and they will spot all the flaws in your plan. Sometimes people don’t like having Challenger around because it interrupts their high-level dreaming, but they are the ones that can help you bring an idea to Earth and put down some strong roots. They will tell you harsh truths when others might give things a pass.
  • Visionary – These people are the ones who are up in the crow’s nest, looking over the far horizon. They can inspire you to believe that big things are not only possible, but inevitable. Visionary often can help you both in your career and your life in general. You want to live up to Visionary’s ideals, to be the best you can be.
  • Mentor – This is someone who is beyond where you are, along the path you aspire to travel. They can help you navigate the pitfalls and educate you in the ways of your field. Their hard-fought wisdom and experience can help you learn and grow.
  • handupRookie – Be generous with your advice and experience, the way you would hope a mentor would be generous with you. As we discussed in Part One, a critical aspect of building the network is that “what goes around comes around.” Being a generous person inspires others around you to be generous. And you never know when Rookie might turn out in the future to be a bridge to somewhere higher.
  • Collaborator – Finally, these are the people who are roughly in the same place and going the same direction as you. Having people around that you feel can understand your daily trials can be extremely helpful in getting through them. Trading advice and information can help to feel that you’re not alone on the journey.

Moving Forward

Meeting and building relationships with a more diverse set of people can take a lot of time and effort, but the rewards will be rich. Take a look at your current network and see what areas you can strengthen. And remember the most important factor about networks: It’s not about what you can get, it’s about what you can share between professional friends.