Most organizations have a hierarchical nature. Worker bees at the bottom, then managers then vice presidents then senior vice presidents then CEO – and sometimes a host of characters in between. Often knowing of and especially being known by those higher up on the food chain can make or break our career advancement. As women, we may tend to focus on our job – the fires to put out and the tasks to complete – and we expect that excelling at our position will get us noticed advancing us to that next level. However, it takes more than job competency to move forward, it takes connections.
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But whom to connect to and how to connect?
When looking for the right connections, we can often be blinded by our own insecurities. I cannot connect with the senior vice president; he is too far ahead of me. I am just a lowly (insert job description here), how could I assume to approach those higher up? Although they have a bigger title, remember they are still people. They still put on one pant leg at a time. They may have more experience and knowledge at this company or the industry, but that does not make them “superior” to you. The first step to making the most out of connections is to remove any illusionary barriers between you and the person who is best suited to help your advancement.
After removing the illusionary barriers, then it is time to act. Check the company directory; see who is involved with which projects, who is being copied on emails, ask other associates, etc. There are many ways to learn who is at the top of the food chain for the position you want. Next, get yourself positioned to be noticed by this leader. Ask to be put on projects which involve this leader’s group, join cross-functional teams to learn life outside of your own department, and here is the gutsy one, ask the leader for fifteen minutes of their time. Invite them to coffee. Get them outside of normal business function, express your interest in an advancement, and ask for advice on how to proceed. You will be surprised. There are many leaders out there just waiting to become mentors.
Whether you have a clear goal for your advancement or simply know you want to move on but are not sure to where, making connections outside of your cube is vital. Take the time to scope out those who may be able to help then take a step in their direction. You may not always be greeted by a welcoming hand, but I promise you will make much more progress than you would if you take no action.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.” - Wayne Gretzky, hockey hall of famer
Question: How do you make connections?
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