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Professional Networking: Who’s Missing From Your Network?
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Professional Networking: Who’s Missing From Your Network? - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Who’s Missing From Your Network?

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Who’s Missing From Your Network?

It’s a movie trope almost as old as the movies: a hero with a daunting task locates and recruits a small team of specialists, assembling a motley crew who agrees, for whatever reason, to assist the hero at any cost. There’s the pyrotechnics expert who knows how to blow things up. There’s the old swordsman who’s seen it all. There’s the engineer who can get you into any building. And a few others whose expertise may not be obvious until they’re called upon later in the film.

Chances are excellent you’ve got this kind of diversity of experience in your professional network. If you haven’t, you’re either in the infant stages of your career or you’ve been networking poorly. It’s true that networking within your field has enormous value, and we’ve touted the benefits of joining professional organizations for the strong ties they forge, but we’ve also discussed the “strength in weak ties” phenomenon, where distant connections sometimes prove more valuable than close ones. In order for your network to be the fluid, dynamic, exciting entity with enduring two-way value, you want connections who are interesting and engaging, in any field and with any level of experience.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to pursue solid relationships with people who, because of their specific abilities or interests, will join your motley crew in the adventure movie of your life. We’re going to skip some of the obvious choices, since you don’t need to be reminded of how great it can be to have a lawyer or high-level bureaucrat in your network. Instead, we’ve identified three great connections you might not have considered, people who are beneficial to know and to whom you can be beneficial.

The People-Mover
Some people just have a knack for organizing large groups of people and getting them to move together in the same direction. These are not always the rah-rah let’s-get-inspired cheerleader-types. They’re skilled at identifying good leaders and good followers in any crowd, and they know how to communicate specifically what each person’s task is. It’s a rare skill, but if you’ve attended a few very large events run by a hundred volunteers, you know what it’s like when a People-Mover isn’t involved. Volunteers stand around waiting for someone to tell them what to do, and when anyone has a question about anything, nobody knows whom to ask. Volunteers come back from these events with the sad feeling that they didn’t really contribute anything meaningful. A good People-Mover empowers everyone on a team.

The MacGyver
It’s easy to think the MacGyvers in your network are the tech hardware people, but this isn’t always the case. Yes, if you know good cable-stringers, you probably have a MacGyver or two in the group. Still, even your favorite tech-head has someone he or she calls when confronted with an especially difficult problem. This cannot be overstated enough: like the TV character who could escape from a prison cell using a piece of gum and some dental floss, there are people who quickly evaluate a problem, assess the materials at hand, and find a way out of tricky situations. You need these people in your life. When you have a healthy, mutual relationships with a MacGyver, you’ll learn that their talents are not limited to fixing broken things. They are skilled at solving all kinds of problems, and who doesn’t need a good problem-solver?

The Loyal Opposition
“Loyal opposition” is a term from Parliament, and it refers to those in the minority party who are determined to work within the system, in opposition to the majority party but loyal to the government of which it’s a component. While the loyal opposition may be opposed to some legislation, it doesn’t seek to blow the system up; instead, it acts in good faith to represent its people the best it can. In your professional network, the loyal opposition is more than a devil’s advocate. It is the person who believes in the system, even while the system is working at odds with its purposes. You can call your loyal opposition connection on the phone and say, “Make the case for X,” and the person will make it. You can also say, “Make the case against X,” and you’ll get the other side. It’s a gift for seeing the strengths and weaknesses of any issue, and the more you advance in your career, the more you’ll need someone like this, not only because the issues become more complicated and nuanced, but because it can be more difficult to find someone who’ll tell you where you’re off your rocker.

A network is strengthened by its diversity, but diversity doesn’t always mean what it seems. There is much to be said (and we have said it in this space) for diversity of experience, diversity of culture, and diversity of other demographics. But diversity is also valuable in social strengths and challenges: what we’re really talking about with these people we suggest you add to your network is a different look at social roles. Identifying strengths overlooked strengths such as these is one way to appreciate and grow your network.

 

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Professional Networking: Who’s Missing From Your Network? - Executive Leadership Articles

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