Who has influence over your career?

Do you know what this is? Don't answer - it will date you!

For those unfamiliar, the Rolodex was once a coveted tool for any good executive. Early in my carer, it was fun to watch a leader who had been asked a question reach for the Rolodex on their desk, give it a spin, and whip a card out with a name and number like they were the only person in the world with the critical information to contact this person! 

Gone are the days of the Rolodex, but the ability quickly locate a name and phone number is still critical to a successful career. I once heard an executive say, you are only as strong as your network, a philosophy I have wholeheartedly subscribed to my entire career! You cannot do it alone. 

While technology has replaced the Rolodex, it is still critical to understand the five groups of leaders who will impact your career (and vice versa) and why you need to have the ability to locate their information and connect in a meaningful way to support their journey. Staying connected and building these relationships will pay you back in ways that are unimaginable in the present moment. 

Group one: Your current and former colleagues 

They already know who you are, they understand your strengths and weaknesses, and they can advocate for you. In fact, they WANT to advocate for you; your leadership, partnership, and ability to get things done will serve you well. In addition, these leaders will provide you with industry information, job leads, and references. 

Don't underestimate their influence on your career; burn a bridge, be less than collaborative, and you will find yourself managing the delta between the personal brand you want and the one they assign to you. 

Group two: Your long-term industry and professional colleagues

While you have never worked together, you have built a presence in the industry, and your thought leadership has impressed this group. Your ability to stay connected and find common interests will continue to build mutual inspiration, and they will come and go dropping into your life at the most peculiar times. Kismet, almost. 

This group may include recruiters, those you have tried to recruit, professional competitors, and industry colleagues.

Group three: The backbone of your network

These are your go-tos every time you need information. While they may start in any of the above groups, they differ because they will call you back within 24 hours and go above and beyond to help you make connections or find answers, and you will do the same for them. They continue to inspire you (and vice versa). You do not keep score on the give and take, it is not always equal, but it eventually balances out. As a result, you will make life-long connections, and they will become your friends in many situations. 

Group four: Those who inspire you

This is an interesting group; they hit your radar because they are inspirational. You want to be like them. But, even from afar, you can learn from them, emulate their style, learn from their decisions, examples, and thought leadership. Some will become your mentors and even your peers if you take the time to connect and keep pushing yourself. As of today, it looks like you will never swim in the same pond or circulate in the same universe - but keep focused on your future; they will show up. 

Group five: Your future connections

This is an elusive group. They are full of chance meetings, passing in the hallway, clandestine introductions, and pure luck. However, your awareness of the situation, your follow-up, and often overcoming the voice in your head telling you that you don't belong, it is inappropriate, or they are not interested will lead you to opportunities you have yet to imagine.

Now that you have a shortlist of critical career relationships you need to build remember that you need more than quickly locating their information in the Rolodex (or looking them up on your iPhone). You must have cultivated a relationship that ensures they call you back. 

This is the journey that you are on in life and your career. Building relationships is critical to moving your career forward. Who do you need to connect with today, and what is your plan to stay connected in the future? 

After a lifetime in corporate America, studying why some are successful, and others are unsuccessful, I help leaders manage the 8 Career Narratives they need to move their careers forward. 


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