Remember back in Tip #3 – Mine your Inbox for Contacts, I talked about working through your email archives to keep track of your contacts. Well, here is the follow-on. It applies, of course, to your universe of contacts, not just those people hanging out in your Inbox.
1. Make a list of your best relationships…not necessarily your best friends mind you. I am talking about professional relationships. Those people who know you and who have the power to help your career along. Like who? Well, if you know The Donald, great, but in the real world, think about..
- Individuals within your organization who are 1 or 2 levels above you, within your department and outside of it. You need to have some kind of exposure, or relationship, or at least the very real possibility of creating one over time.
- Peers within your organization who are on the move and in a non-competitive area.
- People who fit the above description but who are external to your organization. Again, you need some kind of contact or relationship with them.
- People whose opinion, input, coaching, and advice you really value.
2. Prioritize your list. If you have more than 20 names, focus in on the Top 20. The people who might be in a position to refer you to new opportunities, assign/hire you to career expanding work, go to bat for you, introduce you to someone interesting, etc.
3. Now, get thinking about how you can be useful to these people. For in-company relationships, it is often about doing great work, delivering on what you promised, and communicating and interacting at their level. Perhaps you can now or in the future refer quality people and companies to your contact. You might be a conduit of information. Get creative. Even if nothing occurs to you, the idea is to reciprocate.
I know. You may be thinking that this all sounds a bit mechanical. Here’s the bottom line. Your whole career can be made by just a few key relationships. Those key relationships may be within your grasp right now. Even if they aren’t, building your networking / relationship building muscle is an important skill.