And building your network
What does doing the right thing – personally and professionally – have to do with building your network? Pretty much everything.
Every career-focused website and publication constantly drills into us that it’s vital to build our professional network as a means to start, maintain and further your career. But many of us often struggle with how to do that. Yes, it can take work, but I’ve also found that a network can be built without you even being aware you’re doing anything special.
Doing the right thing, both personally and professionally – and making this your default mode of operation – will provide you with a wealth of good will, trust and respect. Those things will build an impressive network.
In other posts, I’ve discussed professional integrity in terms of business and managing people. Integrity means doing the right thing whether or not anyone is watching. It means having the courage to do the right thing, even if the consequences will be difficult. Building a reputation of integrity can take years, but it takes only a second to lose; it’s important to not do anything that would damage your integrity.
Let’s look at that again in slightly different terms. How do we "do the right thing"?
Show people you can get the job done – the right things, and the right way. Accomplish what you’re hired to do professionally, and deliver on your personal commitments. Don’t overpromise and don’t make excuses for not delivering results.
Always improve. Increase your knowledge and capabilities. Be a continual learner. Act on the feedback you receive; never consider yourself above feedback. Don’t assume your knowledge and skills will be sufficient for coming challenges.
Keep Your Commitments
Say what you’re going to do and then do what you say. Make those commitments carefully; be sure you can keep them and do so. Don’t make excuses for commitments you’ve broken. Apologize when circumstances prevent you from meeting your commitments, and then make up for it.
Don’t be Greedy
Give credit to others when it’s due. Give others opportunities to do things for which they’ll receive credit; spread the (professional) wealth.
Speak the Truth
Be honest, tell the truth. Let people know where you stand. Use clear and direct language. Call things what they are; don’t sugar coat. Don’t manipulate people or distort the facts to suit yourself.
Be Accountable and Expect it from Others Around You
Hold yourself accountable. Hold others accountable. Take responsibility for results or failures. Don’t avoid or shirk responsibility. Do your job and deliver your results in a timely fashion so your co-workers are not left hanging. Don’t blame others when things go wrong.
Face Reality and Pass it On
Face issues head on, even the "unmentionables" (when possible!). Tackle the tough stuff, even if no one else will. Acknowledge what isn’t said. Don’t ignore or bury the real issues.
Show Real Concern
Genuinely care for others – and show it. Respect the dignity of every person and every position or role. Treat everyone with respect, even (or especially) those who can’t do anything for you. Show kindness in the little things.
When you prove yourself – consistently and continually – to possess these characteristics and qualities, your reputation as someone people can count on, and want to be associated with will grow quickly. Your network will have developed without any specific network-building effort on your part.
But we do have to maintain our personal and professional networks, as well. Again, I think this can be done easily if we follow the above principles and remember it’s all about being an active part of a group (whether that group is our professional associates, our family or our personal circle of friends).
Be an active participant in other people’s network. Think about it, we do this all the time. A colleague will call and ask "Do you remember when xyz happened? How did we resolve that?" Or someone needs to find a resource or information and asks your help. Jump in and offer that help! Give of yourself freely and others will give to you when you ask.
Help others to build their network. Take the time to introduce people you know to each other. I learned the value of this early on, and as a result of the example of a wonderful colleague – Christine Walters – She actively makes this a part of her professional mode of operation. And it’s an awesome way to help others and yourself.
Share ideas and information. Are you LinkedIn, or a part of any professional association? Share interesting articles. When you come across an article or other information that could be useful to others in your circle – share it! Don’t keep it all to yourself. As an HR professional, it’s difficult to keep up with the changing employment laws and regulations. Pass it on when you learn something new, or a new twist on something old. Being known for sharing your knowledge always reaps great rewards.
Ask for advice or ideas. Yep. Even while you’re sharing great ideas with your network, your network is a source for great ideas for you. And they will appreciate your confidence in them when you seek their support and advice. Obviously, this can be a great resource when you’re job-hunting, but it’s equally useful to get fresh input in your day to day job responsibilities or on that new project.
Always follow up/respond. Even if you’re unable to help right then, drop an email or a quick phone call to tell the person contacting you for help that you’ll get back to them as soon as possible – and then do so! Show that you’re reliable, that you can be counted on. If it turns out that you can’t provide the help or information requested, tell them and maybe you can refer them to someone who can.
Do the right thing – professionally and personally – and your networks will grow themselves.