Updated: Dec 6, 2019
I’m very happy to be back for a new blog post and I hope that you all had a fantastic time in October. If you’ve been more busy with your Halloween costumes and pumpkins than building on your strengths but still would like a catch up on that, you can still read last month’ blog post here.
I don’t know about you but I’m enjoying how the themes for each month are starting to roll out and hopefully are helping you to build a clearer picture with some specific tips and tools you can use! To summarise, so far we’ve explored (1) how to set up a clear vision and (2) how to raise your self-awareness especially around the practicalities of giving yourself some reality checks.
What a better way to follow up introspection than extrospection? So without further ado, let's explore together the importance of building a support network!
What to know about networking and building your support network
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, networking is “the activity of trying to meet people who might be useful to know, especially in your job”. It’s quite interesting that within that definition, there is actually the word “trying” next to “to meet people”. And I don’t know about your experience so far with networking, but it happened to me a couple of times where I went to some events and I would end up with various different business cards from people that I did not have the chance to try to interact more than 3 seconds with, sounds familiar?
Networking should be a key component of your support network, but with the condition that it includes “trying to meet people” and that's where everyone has their own interpretation about what this means which can lead to mismatched expectations. At the end of the day, you’re forming relationships with people and relationships are always the most valuable when they are two-sided. A huge influencing aspect on these “future relationships” and the quality of exchanges you’re going to have is definitely the type of events that you decide to go to. If you are looking for a job and you decide to go to a career fair and hand over your CV to different companies who are there, this might not have the same outcome than attending one company’s event and network (i.e. trying to meet) with one of their senior members.
“So how do I build my support network?” You might ask. Well, the first important thing is to be clear about what you would like to achieve: is it applying to a new job? Starting to set up your own business? Once you have some clarity around your intentions you do have multiple options when it comes to building your support network and trying to meet people. The most obvious one is definitely event networking, which will give you the opportunity to meet new people and learn on various different topics. This type of networking can also offer you the opportunity to develop some skills such as public speaking for example. However and as mentioned above, you need to be mindful of the type of events you are going to as this will impact the audience you’ll be networking with. Another type of networking that can sometimes be forgotten, is internal networking, which consists of meeting and discussing with your colleagues, even though your job does not require you to do so. This can be very helpful especially if you’re looking to broaden your horizons job-wise as it will give you a better understanding of the other opportunities available within your organisation.
Additionally and among other options available to you when it comes to building your support network, this can include reaching out to your existing network. Have you talked to your previous colleagues and/or managers about your situation and what you’re looking to achieve? Another approach can also include identifying people within your network that are in a similar situation or working towards a similar timeline and grab a coffee with them on a regular basis so that you can help and support each other. Regardless of what you are deciding to do, there are various options available to help you build your support network: from networking with new individuals, checking-in with existing connections or scheduling some 1-1 with people to help you stick to your timeline, you can decide what works best for you. Regardless of the option(s) you’re going for, your unique support network will have a lot of useful benefits so let’s explore the 3 main ones in the next section!
3 benefits of using and building your support network
#1 - It opens a whole new range of opportunities
This is definitely the greatest benefit of having a support network. You just never know when the next opportunity might come from or sometimes you just never considered it until someone presented it to you. By actively building and relying on your support network, you will have the opportunity to learn, explore and take part in events and/or discussions that might lead you to your next dream job or that will unlock your future business model. Sometimes, this can also lead to finding an inspiring mentor, your future business collaborator or a new friend! The definition of opportunities in the context of a support network is close to limitless: it can be anything from a new career, an unexpected joint-venture, a new skill developed and many, many more! Have you heard about Henry Ford’s quote “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”? Well, I can definitely assure you that actively building and using your support network will definitely lead you to pastures new!
#2 - It keeps you accountable
Another key benefit to consider when it comes to building and having a support network is having people keeping you accountable. And when you are in a situation where you’re looking to move towards a certain industry or to get this business off the ground once and for all: having told someone about that timeline definitely does the trick. For some people, it works great just tell someone about what they are doing and what they are looking to achieve to already have this feeling of accountability and wanting to share some progress next time they meet them. For some others (like me!) that feeling of accountability goes with a specific time set for meeting 1-1 with some friends and/or connections on a defined basis to ensure consistent progress is made (as we covered in the above section). Whether it’s conscious or unconscious accountability, this is a fantastic benefit of a support network: the people you speak and meet with are genuinely interested in you and how things are going even if sometimes it might not go according to the plan, which is leading us to benefit number 3!
#3 - It supports you, regardless of where you’re at
Last but not least, another key benefit of relying on your support network is to always benefit from help and encouragement, regardless of where things are at. How many times did you just wanted to openly express to your colleague or your manager that you do no longer want to work on this project or with this client yet did not say anything? Well, my friend, that’s the beauty of a support network as it can include people who are in no way, shape or form close to your professional or personal environment! I mean hopefully you’ll have some relevant connection with your network to ensure the quality of exchanges but that is the only thing needed, really. By surrounding yourself with the right connections, you are creating your own supportive and non-judgmental space. You can be free to be who you are, without holding anything back, so no more holding thoughts about this project or client you’ve been stuck with for that long!
Hopefully, you now have a feel about the importance and benefits of building your own support network. Maybe you already created one without consciously knowing this was it?! Or maybe you are thinking about starting yours? Either way, something key to keep in mind is that building and growing your support network can be done in whatever shape or form you fancy most. The only thing to keep in mind here is the importance of nurturing these relationships and this network because things and people always change and evolve as you will do too!
I wish you a happy meeting people month ahead and as always, feel free to be in touch as I’d love to hear about your progress!