We all know that having a large, thriving professional network can help take our careers to the next level, but it can be frustrating if you don’t feel like your network is very large. After all, if you’re not a superstar at making connections, who will you have to call on next time you need a professional boost?
I’ve got a secret for you: The answer is sitting right under your nose (or, well, in the seat next to you). Take a look around you. Your peers, managers, bosses, bosses’ bosses, clients, and partners are all potential influencers in your career. And, as Fast Company’s Brendan Reid explains on his list of five things you can do tomorrow to shift your career over to the fast lane, it’s time to start utilizing them with an influencer list.
Creating the list is simple and will only take about 10 minutes: Start with your current company, and write down everybody who has had even the smallest influence on your career. This can range from the obvious (your boss, your direct reports, clients you’ve developed close relationships with) to the more easily forgotten (people in departments across the company who your work affects, someone who you run into at industry events and have good rapport with). Reid suggests: “Err on the side of having too many influencers and be creative about how you assess who can influence your success or failure.”
Next to each name, write a quick note about what skills they could speak to, who they know who could help you out, or any other ways they could ultimately benefit your career.
For example, your list may look like:
- Barbara M., manager, understands my strengths and weaknesses as an employee
- Michael P., vendor, can put me in contact with recruiters at STYLIGHT, Handybook, and PaperG
- Sarah L., co-worker, collaborated on multiple projects together
- Christopher W., client, closed a major deal in 2014 and left good impression
Now, do this for your previous job. And the one before that. And then do it for the professional network you’ve built outside of work. Before you know it, you’ll have a longer list than you would have imagined.
Better yet, if you keep this habit up—regularly adding new people as you meet and work with them—you’ll have a ready-to-grab list of people you can reach out to next time you could use some career pointers or are looking for a new gig. (On that note, here’s an easy email template to send to let your network know you’re looking for a job.)
Plus, looking at that list and seeing how large your network really is? Well, that’s something to be proud of.