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career, job search, networking, references

Who are your champions?

At a point in my recent past, I was talking with someone in my professional network. We had been introduced by a third party (a candidate we had both tried to recruit, actually) many years ago. We’ve stayed in touch, sharing information/resources/networking assistance. Over time, we’ve become friends.

I reached out to this person to let them know I was starting to look for a new opportunity and wanted to expand my network.

His reply: “Who can I connect you to? How else can I help?”

This isn’t someone who was looking for something in return. Taking time to help me didn’t offer an immediate, direct benefit to them. They had a deep network of key leaders–and were willing to make connections through that network on my behalf.

That’s someone I call a career search champion. And there are many people in your network who might be worthy of that title…if you’ve made the appropriate investment.

Think carefully about the people in your network. How do you know them? Did you work together? Is it someone for whom you consistently delivered excellent work? Did you make the time to invest in that relationship, getting to know them beyond the transactional nature of your work? If you no longer work together, what have you done to maintain that relationship?

If it’s someone like the professional colleague in the example above, what have you done to build and perpetuate that relationship? How have you offered to share your expertise with them? What about helping them out when they need a networking connection, a reference, or are trying to hire that key member of their team? What value do you offer to them?

Your professional relationships need to be valued, respected, and invested in. When you do this consistently, you might be lucky enough to call upon one of them and be humbled by their offer of assistance–to be your champion by representing you to people in their network who they know and respect.

How do you build and invest in your professional relationships? And how have they been champions for you?

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