Judy called me just after getting the news that she didn’t get a promotion she’d been interviewing for. Instead, the job went to her colleague, Nikki.
“I don’t get it. I understand the challenges our division is facing and I have some great ideas about how we can make effective changes. Plus, I know the technology challenges inside and out,” she bemoaned. “I don’t think Nikki does. . . . I would have been perfect for that role.”
“What’s different about the two of you?” I ask.
“On paper, we stack up about the same. Well, actually, I think I stand out on paper. I’ve been with the company longer than she has and I have a Master’s degree.”
“And off paper?” I probe gently.
“Well, she knows a lot more people than I do. She’s on the planning committee of our women’s leadership initiative and everyone seems to know who she is. That shouldn’t matter, though, should it? I mean, shouldn’t the person with the best qualifications get the job?”
“Consider that having a broad network is part of the qualifications for the role,” I explain. “When people know who you are and what you do, it’s easier to get work done. Especially in a large organization like yours. Someone who has connections all across the company has access to people and resources that those without connections do not. She can pick up the phone or send a text and get an answer to a problem, or at least get one giant step closer to an answer.”
“I guess I wish we were living in a meritocracy where we were rewarded for what we know,” replied Judy, “but clearly we are not.” She paused thoughtfully. “Okay, how do I get better at this whole networking thing? Clearly it is holding me back.”
I advised Judy to begin building her network with a “pay it forward” approach, offering to help connect others to people and resources they might need. Using this approach, Judy will broker many helpful interactions – making introductions, sharing resources and being generally helpful. In doing so, she will create solid foundations in her new relationships. She will not only become more well-known in her organization and her industry, she will be known for being resourceful.
This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build a reputation as someone who is well connected and helpful. As the relationships develop, Judy will then be able to ask for an introduction to the hiring manager for that next promotion . . . well before the position is posted.
The next time you wish you had access to people or resources that feel out of reach, follow the steps below to grow your network and get a few steps closer to what you want.