Some would say that any opportunity is a chance to network. Grabbing lunch at your favorite deli. Standing in line at the post office mailing off your agency’s holiday card. Checking in at the JetBlue counter on your way to Chicago for a big presentation.
But here’s the thing: Do you really want to stay in touch with these people? Better yet, should you?
When it comes to networking, saying hello and getting someone’s card is easy. The real challenge is identifying those people who could truly help you in your professional life.
Well, look no further. Here are three people to find and get into your network, pronto, not only for career advancement, but to help you align your goals.
1. The Visionary
The Visionary often sees things you can’t (or aren’t able to—just yet). This person will motivate and inspire you. Your current job might seem like a dead end, but one conversation with your Visionary, and you’ll be ready to clock in early and blow everyone away with your fresh ideas and renovated energy.
Spotting a Visionary is pretty easy; they’re always out meeting new people, working on new and exciting projects themselves, and moving and executing on their ideas. If you want to find a Visionary in your field, start hanging out at events that are aligned with your career or passion. Be on the lookout for a person there who inspires you—maybe she’s a speaker, maybe he was asking the panel interesting questions, maybe she was just someone you felt really energized with after speaking to. Dive in and compliment this person on what intrigued you, then continue the relationship by going to coffee and connecting on social media.
2. The Realist
This is the person in your network who will keep you grounded and create a nice balance with The Visionary. You want ownership of the new account the office just snagged? The Realist will help you organize your thoughts and create a plan for approaching the topic with your boss. The Realist is certainly not the Pessimist—a true Realist will help you find ways to improve on your ideas rather than just shut them down and force you to think clearly and level headedly on the matter. The Realist wants you to have the tools you need to succeed!
To find the Realists in your life, be on the lookout for people moving up in their careers and getting promotions and plum assignments because they’re completely aware of what needs to be done to get to the next level. Then, next time you’re dealing with a challenge or opportunity, ask to pick their brains on what’s worked so well for them.
3. The Connector
Connectors keep networks alive. These are the people who truly have an outstanding network that functions beyond a LinkedIn request. They may be leaders in their industry or just well-known in their own circles, but their gift is naturally and authentically connecting to people and helping them connect to each other. Their motto is, “No one knows everything, but everyone knows something.” The Connector may or may not be able to help you—but if not, he or she will always guide you in the right direction and to the right person.
Now, the Connector isn’t necessarily the Schmoozer—look for people who others genuinely like, respect, and go to. It may be the woman who always seems to have the hook-up in different departments, or the guy who’s a huge influencer in social media. Either way, be on the lookout for people with active schedules and calendars that are constantly booked. (But don’t fear, the Connector will always pencil you in.)
Now, of course we’re not advocating dumping anyone in your circle should they not fit any of these categories. But we do recommend starting to network with a purpose. And when you do? Be on the lookout for these three people. They’ll boost your career in ways you never thought possible.