A Network of true connections

By TW-Images

Photo by TW-Images

When I say “network” (as in the noun), what do you think of? Most people immediately take a mental inventory of their level of popularity and come up with something like: “how many people like me and can help me out when I need it?”

The way I define a healthy professional network is much different. Most importantly, it’s not just something you assess and access as needed. That’s like saying cultivating a community in your personal life is optional. We all need a place that we fit, feel comfortable, needed and supported.

The necessity of this place in your professional life is not any different. And the way I see it, there are three key connections every single professional should have in order to create it:

1) A mentor. Find someone who you want to emulate and with whom you feel comfortable. Work out a way to have conversations centered around asking for advice. You might ask about what you have to look forward to in your role, gather wisdom around dealing with tricky situations, or inquire as to what they think of you and your work. There’s no rule that it has to be a formal mentor-mentee relationship, or that you have to label it at all. It can be consistent or on a once-in-a-while basis. As long as it is designed to work for both of you.

2) A loyal peer. Identify someone at your level or in a similar role – either inside or outside your organization – that you get along with, respect and are not in competition with. Become a resource for each other. Pool knowledge, compare experiences, offer one another observations, share new learning and brainstorm around challenges. Not only will it help you do your work faster and better, the camaraderie will offer you support and additional perspective.

3) A protégé. Give your time to someone who looks up to you; someone in whom you believe. Being generous with advice and guidance will feel meaningful and will make you feel great about the skills and experience you’ve amassed over your career.

A network with these types of connections is one you truly belong to, as you take an active role in a creating and maintaining these valuable professional relationships. Take a critical look at your current network to make sure you’ve covered your bases, and then continue to strengthen it by thoughtfully building and evolving within each category. That’s how I define “networking”.

A hobby’s not a hobby if you’re paid for it.

photo by: david__jones

photo by: david__jones

A caution to American Idol contestants dreaming of a record contract… science says if you are paid for your hobby, you will lose pleasure in it!

To many, the inspiring “do what you love and the rest will follow”, expression means that if you’re committed enough, a paycheque will come out of something you’re doing for fun anyway, and you will live happily ever after. I’ve explored this many times in partnership with clients who start out positioning this as the ideal situation, and through reflection, research and trial, they realize it’s not exactly what they want. (But hey, who doesn’t romanticize the life of a dog walker?) Perhaps we innately know what science has now proven.

Hobbies do have the power to lead you to your ideal career in a few ways, though. I have seen a hobby lead to career success through its power to put people in a wonderfully positive state of mind.  Connecting to what you are effortlessly drawn to gives you an appreciation of who you really are, and that is a great place from which to get the energy and perspective to explore your career from an uninhibited place. The painter’s studio in your sunroom may be a perfect place to quiet outside influences and think clearly….and so perhaps in your private life it should stay.

Your hobbies also offer many “career clues”. For example, say you love being a volunteer hockey coach in your spare time. In this role, you encourage others to learn and grow; you socialize, get to be competitive, and are a part of a team.  You can certainly look out for opportunities to do all of these things – or do more of them- in a professional setting. Hobbies tend to blossom out of things we are naturally good at. So chances are if you identify transferrable skills to take from your hobby into the workplace, you’ll do well by it.

Please, don’t get me wrong –I have witnessed many people become successful in making a career of an extension of an activity they have always loved to do! By all means – if you can’t get enough of it, be a professional singer, a dog walker, a painter or a hockey coach. If you can make a living like this, they say “you’ll never work a day in your life.”  I must admit, my work as Coach comes very close. But if you’re paid for your hobby, well, technically it’s no longer a hobby – it’s a job. And when it starts to feel like a job (I don’t always get excited about early morning meetings) that means you no longer have a hobby to escape to.  A special spot to do what we want, when we want, is necessary… and priceless.

PS: Here’s the amusing article that brought this topic to my attention: http://io9.com/5984475/how-do-you-get-someone-to-lose-interest-in-their-hobby-pay-them-to-do-it )