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10 Ways To Know If You’ve Got A Healthy Professional Network

11.03.08 Posted in Uncategorized by

Whenever the economy gets shaky, it’s a good idea to revisit the makeup of your professional network. This is true for two reasons. First, you might get canned. Down economic times lead lots of companies to lay people off, so you better be ready. Second, you might get promoted. As the underperformers get cut loose, you may have an opportunity to take a new role with expanded responsibility. So again, you better be ready. Here’s how to know if your professional network is ready to help you.

1. Is someone in my network an executive?

It is not a matter of what you know; it is a matter of who you know. You’ll never get to the top unless you know people at the top. It is best to have an executive in your personal network because then you have an opportunity to really learn from their experience. However, having an exec as part of your professional network is a good place to start.

2. Have I built a relationship with someone from another company or industry in the last 30 days?

A healthy professional network is one that is continuously growing and evolving. If you are in sales, you meet new people all the time so this should be easy. However, sales is the exception. Most jobs have you insulated and you see the same people every day. This is a recipe for stagnation. Go to events. Meet your friends’ friends. Try going to a Jelly event.

3. Do I have a mentor?

Having a mentor is the top-down approach to network development. It is a good way to learn from someone else’s experience at basically no cost. Your mentor doesn’t have to be from your company, it could be someone from your personal network like a friend of one of your parents. You could also try something more formal like SCORE, which is basically retired executives who volunteer their time to help small businesses and young entrepreneurs.

4. Am I mentoring anyone?

Being a mentor is the bottom-up approach to professional networking. Find someone younger than you and show them the ropes. You’d be amazed how much you can learn from the next class of professionals behind you. I guarantee they are going to have better ideas for monetizing Twitter than we are.

5. Do I have a champion at my current company?

If a position becomes open, will there be someone at that meeting to recommend you for the job? A champion is typically one or two levels above you in the org chart. You need someone like this to advocate on your behalf for new jobs that come open, or even to recommend the creation of a new job that is custom tailored to you. Essentially, you need to be “on the radar” of someone who makes staffing decisions.

6. Do my current connections know what I’ve been up to lately?

Think of a your professional network as a living thing. If it is inactive, it will die. is a great tool for keeping your network up to speed on what you are doing. Your connections will get little alerts and one of those alerts might find someone who is looking to hire someone with your expertise.

7. Have I checked with my personal network (friends and family) about career opportunities?

Most jobs get filled without ever being posted. So if you want a job, you better be an insider. The quickest way to get “inside” other companies is to know someone there. I bet your immediate family and friends represent at least 10 different companies that you have access to.

8. Have I updated my LinkedIn profile in the last 30 days?

In my opinion, is THE tool for managing your professional network. Almost 100% of my professional network uses it, so I will rely on it heavily the next time I make a job change. I repeat, your network can only be considered healthy if you are actively working it. Take advantage of LinkedIn’s setup wizard, which forces you to jump certain hoops before it considers your registration “complete” … I’m still only at 95%.

9. Are my references recent?

Check your resume. If you haven’t spoken with your references in more than 18 months, find some new ones.

10. Is someone in my network a professional recruiter or head-hunter?

You probably never want to meet a mercenary, but in a time of war … I’d bet you’d be glad to have one on your side.

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