By Ryan Heinl
My son is two years old and one of his favorite books right now is the Dr. Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham. He likes to read it in box, he likes to read it with a fox…you get the idea. I’ve recently moved my family to Atlanta after living in Toronto for five years, and as I was reading this story to my son for probably the hundredth time it occurred to me that this was especially relevant for my situation. Even though a move like this represents an ocean of stressful change and adjustment it also represented a tremendous amount of opportunity in terms of trying new things, especially in networking.
I’ve been working for DDI for more than 10 years now and while that gives me a tremendous depth of knowledge it also puts me in danger of not focusing in a very deliberate way on expanding my business network, and that could not be a bigger mistake given this recent change. Let me hit just a few points on why:
- The danger is that I’ll just assume that my current network will serve me just as well in this new role as it has in my old one, which is likely not true
- It’s a huge opportunity to expand my network and I’ve got something interesting to say about why I might be reaching out to people (Don’t have to manufacture a reason)
- It’s a great opportunity to do a little internal marketing and educate people on my new role
Sometimes networking is perceived as a lot of “grinning and gripping” to borrow a phrase from a colleague of mine, but really it’s about expanding your knowledge base through people. You can’t know it all, and so you need to think about who will bring you valuable information and how you can also provide valuable knowledge back to them. Changing my perspective about the purpose of networking allowed me to break down who I should network with into three categories:
- Personal – These are close mentors and advisors who help to guide you in your career or role, and potentially help you to navigate organizational politics.
- Operational – These are the folks who help you to get things done on a day to day basis and probably represent the biggest group in your network.
- Strategic – These are the industry luminaries and other visionary thinkers who challenge and expand your thinking.
This is a great way to audit your people network and to ensure that your connections are providing you with a well balanced diet of information. So if you are going into a new role or even taking on just a few new responsibilities, (whether you are in a box, with a fox, in a house, or with a mouse,) don’t pass up the opportunity to expand your network, because chances are that the people you know today won’t be the ones who help you to get the job done tomorrow.
Ryan Heinl is a Senior Consultant at Development Dimensions International (DDI).