I’m writing this blog post as a partial output from the work done with James Mernim in the RHT’s mentoring program. We reviewed a framework called the “7 careers skills’’ in which we focused on one specifically called ‘building your network’.
Careers skills: Build your network
The -7 career skills- is a framework part of the official career coaching program in Red Hat where the main goal is to provide a growth mindset and the tools to move forward in the direction the coachee decides to go.
The reasons for writing this post are many, among them, I would like to introduce the –7 careers skills– framework, with the initial description of the exercise called ‘building your network’. Also, to highlight the Importance of having a set of well defined ‘Career Tools’ as part of an officially supported ‘career coaching program’.
The content that will be described here is a written exercise designed to help individuals reflect on their career, gain insights, and develop a growth-mindset. This exercise will map a set of relationships with individuals, whether personal, informational, or structural relationships, play a vital role in career development and to actually materialize them as “opportunities for growth”. This post aims to educate readers about the significance of these relationships and how they can be leveraged.
In Red Hat, it is commonly used a coaching framework called the ‘7 career skills’, these skills are: Build your network, Stretch yourself, Adapt to change, Reflect and plan, Know yourself, Spot opportunities, and Build your brand.
Today I’m going to describe “Building your network” and we will end by doing an exercise to realize how big or healthy your ‘network’ is.
A career tool is a written exercise for a mentee or coachee to complete assisting their thinking, insights and reflection, and they help build up the mindset moving onwards and providing structure, focus and if possible some lightbulb moments.
Mapping your network of career supporters
When we think about our career, people are a key differentiator, the right person in the right place will boost your motivation to make you thrive. Chances are that when you reflect on your career, you’ll identify particular people who have played a major role, both in a positive and negative way. It can be family, friends or co-workers who support us. Often, it’s a great manager who gives us a chance. We succeed via our relationships with others “It’s usually how we get access to opportunities for career development and learning”.
Did you watch the movie “Oppenheimer”? (if not, I will love to spoil the first 5 minutes for you)…
Robert Oppenheimer was a theoretical physicist studying in the Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory under a professor named Blackett. He didn’t seem happy working there “in the lab”, this, until the point of adding cyanide to his professor’s apple. Then, someone in his network called Niels Bohr, said to him “you don’t seem happy here”… “Get out of Cambridge and go somewhere they let you think”… “Where to go”… “Go with Born (University of Göttingen)”… Then, the movie actually starts building its arguments and you will see Oppenheimer’s evolution across the time.
- The main goal of this exercise is to help you to “find your Niels Bohr” -
There is also some interesting research and academic theory around how these networks function. Sociologist Mark Granovetter developed the idea of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ ties within networks. Weak ties are relationships outside of your immediate circle, and they are more important for spotting opportunities and accessing new information. Granovetter also found that a person’s number of connections was less important than their diversity. This activity is designed to help you think about and understand your network. It draws on theory about the kinds of relationships we need to build to have the right kind of career support in place.
There are three categories of relationships which can be helpful:
- Personal: Those who believe in you, listen to you and whom you trust. You can show ‘vulnerability’ and they can provide reassurance. Surround yourself with positive people. Those in your emotional support network will:
- Be willing to listen to you.
- Provide reassurance.
- Be dependable.
- Be a person to go to for advice.
- Be a person you can trust and who trusts you.
- Encourages you to be your best and has faith in your abilities.
- Is concerned that you reach your goals.
- Provides a positive but honest voice.
Informational: This type of connection is about know-how. These are the people who keep you in the loop about what is going on, tell you about the unwritten rules and share their knowledge and experience with you. Those in your informational support network will:
- Share their know-how, knowledge and experience with you.
- Keep you in touch with what is going on.
- Decode unwritten laws.
- Inform you of company policies and procedures that may affect you.
Structural: These are the connectors to other functions. These people will endorse you, champion you, and help you be more visible. Find people who will mentor or champion you. Those in your structural support network will:
- Connect you to other functions.
- Endorse you.
- Champion you.
- Help you be more visible.
- Help you maximize your exposure.
Example of the exercise “Build your network”
Here is an example network map, the three types of relationship are represented as a Venn diagram, you’ll notice that there might be some overlaps depending on how many people you are able to allocate in the diagram.
Once you finish allocating all the people in the diagram (write their names by hand where it says “Insert text”) it should help make an abstract idea of your support network more concrete and understandable.
Suggestions for Expanding One’s Network can be many, these suggestions will try to provide some insights and ideas about some practical steps they can take to improve their network. Among them, contributing to other organizations, attending conferences, and engaging in stronger communication roles within the same organization, internally, we also have the technical gigs program. All this with the idea of provisioning some practical steps you can take to improve your network.
In summary, this post aims to educate and guide readers on the importance of building and maintaining a supportive network in their careers. It should introduce the –7 career skills- framework with emphasis in building your network, with a glimpse of some theoretical and practical advice to help individuals strengthen their professional connections and ultimately advance in their careers.