In 2017, it’s all about the network. But a network is only as good as the people you have in it. Remember, your network isn’t only there to help you land a job by providing great recommendations, your network is there to offer advice, to brainstorm with, and, sometimes, just vent and share frustrations with. With that in mind, here are 10 people you should add to your network this year.
You don’t need a “yes” woman or man in your circle. You want someone who will push you to do your best; “Someone who will challenge and stretch your thinking and approach” Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and co-author of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul, told us. “We tend to surround ourselves with people who will affirm our plans and ways of doing things. If you want a breakthrough year, find someone who will help you see the world differently and help you grow.”
Every professional needs someone in her network who can help her look into the future. “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,” reported The Muse.
You will have to hunt around to find the right visionary. “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,” reported The Muse.
You are not looking for a gossip, but someone in the know–someone who can tell you who’s who and what’s going on in your sector. “As an entrepreneur, you’ll spend much of your time thinking about the things that you don’t know—business strategy, technical details, resources, rules, you name it. Of course, all of that info is out there somewhere, but it still requires lots of time sifting through unvetted leads to find. Fortunately, some people pride themselves on being walking encyclopedias. Get to know them. Ask them questions often, and take them to coffee to pick their brain from time to time. (In return, be sure to share your resources and experiences, too.),” reported Forbes.
We all need an introduction sometimes. And in business it’s great to have someone in your corner who can introduce you to the people you need to know. “It’s not who you know, but who they know and are willing to connect you to that will open the most doors. The best way to attract connectors to your network, is to be one,” said Hurt.
Dreamers and cheerleaders are great to have in your circle but you also need someone who will keep it real with you. “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!,” reported The Muse. “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.”
Look to the leaders in your sector. People who have paved paths and who are willing to share their knowledge. “Acknowledging that great businesses have come before you doesn’t make you any less smart or capable, and it doesn’t make your company any less successful. So don’t necessarily look at the established companies in your field as competition—instead, see them as your mentors! Learning what they’ve done well and what they wished they’d done differently can give you insight on what’s worked, plus help you avoid learning things the hard way. Don’t be shy here—pick a few of your role models, take them to lunch, and do a lot of listening,” reported Forbes.
It’s best to surround yourself with people who know what they are talking about. We don’t mean know-it-alls, but experts. “If you want to rock your role in 2017, hang out with someone who is an expert in what you want to be known for. Offer to help them and learn as you grow,” Hurt said.
A Role Model (or two)
There are likely people you look up to for their business acumen who have nothing to do with what you want to do professionally and you should reach out to them. “It’s easy to be focused solely on your industry, but that really limits you from seeing the innovation and ingenuity that exists elsewhere. Smart entrepreneurship is all about transferrable learning. Think about other industries you find interesting and what they might teach you about your own business or customers. What about their tactics and techniques could be incorporated into your own shop? Pick five people you find fascinating in a wide variety of industries—and learn everything you can from them,” reported Forbes.
We all need a little encouragement, someone who will tell you “good job, keep going.” We call this person a cheerleader. “Perhaps most importantly, you need your posse: your confidantes who will cheer you on when things are great, and hear about the worst (with no judgment) when they’re not. After all, entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart, and only other entrepreneurs can truly understand the complex happiness/exhaustion relationship that comes with running a business. Make sure that you have people you can count on to help out when you need it most. (And make sure to reciprocate by lending an ear, hand, or shoulder when they need it, too.),” reported Forbes.