As you progress through your career, you need to draw on different skillsets to gain more senior roles. Our talent doctor Rob Yeung offers advice on networking to get ahead
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This article was first published in the June 2018 international edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
As you start out on your career journey, getting your first handful of promotions should be relatively straightforward. If you do your work dependably and take enough initiative to be recognised as a helpful contributor to the team, you should quickly ascend within your organisation’s hierarchy.
Moving from junior into middle management often requires a slightly different skillset. One key behaviour related to faster promotion is internal networking: establishing relationships across your organisation to enable you to draw upon the resources of other teams and departments.
Transitioning from middle into senior management may require yet another shift of focus. Business school research suggests that your progress at this point can be accelerated by building your external profile: making yourself known and establishing positive relationships with other professionals outside of your organisation, both within your sector or industry and outside of it.
When I am coaching individuals who are seeking a more senior role, I find that most understand intellectually the need to build their external profiles, but have sometimes found excuses for not doing so. If you are genuinely keen to succeed, consider the conclusions reached by researchers in a wide-ranging review of studies on profile building. Carter Gibson and colleagues at the University of Oklahoma found that networking externally ‘leads to increased visibility and power, job performance, organisational access to strategic information, and career success’.
One way to raise your profile is to get involved in industry groups and associations. If you work in, for example, the pharmaceutical or construction sectors, then don’t just join the relevant industry body, make it a priority to contribute too. Volunteer to take a lead role in organising industry events. Offer to take part in panel discussions. Put together presentations on notable projects you have completed within your organisation. Approach people you admire and ask them to speak at such events too.
Sharing your perspective
Get in touch with the editors of relevant magazines and newsletters, and offer to share your perspective on an industry-wide issue or opportunity. Even if you cannot write for professional publications, at least show that you have an intelligent point of view on the more business-minded social networks, such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
Alternatively, consider creating your own small-scale events. Invite several close contacts together for a discussion on a topic you would all find useful. Then expand the size of the group by asking each individual to bring with them at least one other person who is new to the others. That way, you use people that you know to introduce you to other professionals.
Building a public profile in itself may afford you some further opportunities. For example, people may invite you to participate in further public forums or even approach you with job offers.
However, the most successful profile builders use their visibility to cultivate new relationships with other individuals. When you are speaking at a conference or contributing to a panel discussion, everyone in the audience should be receptive to you. So use the time immediately after such events to approach people you would like to know better.
When you do initiate conversations with new people, aim simply to build a degree of rapport and get to know them. Avoid promoting yourself too assertively. Instead, spend more time listening than talking. Focus on other people’s needs and interests. What brings them to the event? What challenges are they facing?
Not everyone will want to stay in touch with you. But if you keep track of people and make an effort to stay in touch, you will turn at least some of the people you meet into useful contacts, allies or even friends. Together, you may be able to share industry insights, best practices, recommendations and occasional career opportunities too. Building your profile and network of external relationships may not be an explicit part of your job description, but that does not make it any less essential to your career success.
Dr Rob Yeung is an organisational psychologist at leadership consulting firm Talentspace
CPD technical article
"Establish relationships across your organisation to enable you to draw upon the resources of other teams and departments"