My number one career regret

When it comes to my career I really only have one big regret – that I didn’t devote time to developing my network earlier in my career.

Yeah I know, networking, yuck!

Even just the word brings up visions of clutching warm white wine while scanning the room for anyone you know that you can cling onto until the speaker starts. Smile plastered on your face while you nod away to someone endlessly going on about what they do, and an ever growing pile of business cards stacking up in your handbag.

Yeah, absolutely, totally without a doubt, YUCK!

And yet I don’t know how many times over the years I have helped my clients build out their networks, explaining that if people don’t know who you are, and what you’re looking for then opportunities won’t come their way.

So yeah, I regret not putting time into my network. I hate to think of what I’ve missed out on and also how much faster my business growth would have been if I’d left corporate life with a thriving network rather than starting from… well no, not from scratch, more untapped.

I know a lot of people, and until I went freelance I hadn’t realised just how much goodwill I had built with those people. I have a reputation as knowing stuff. If I can connect you to information or people that will help you then I will. I don’t always have the answer but I can usually find someone who does. And really that is what networking is about for me, it is connection. Either me making a connection with you or making a connection for you.

And I’ve come to see that:

  1. It is ok to have a methodical way to stay in touch with people – I have a list of people I want to be in contact with monthly because they are awesome or they might be a source of connections for me or both;
  2. Everyone loves knowing they are on someones mind, it might as well be mine;
  3. No one ever says no, they either ignore your request or punt it down the road a bit – both of which don’t cause me drown in a pool of shame, I’m too busy meeting the people who said yes; and
  4. People want to stay in touch with me as much as I want to stay in touch with them.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am still terrified of getting in touch with people, that vampire voice in my head still kicks off every time I do and I have to have a list of who I’m going to get in contact with. But, I also get that hit of joy and warmth when they get back to me and the absolute pleasure of connecting with them when we meet.

So, what about you? What is your career regret story? How do you develop your network?

Drop me a line, I’d love to know: [email protected]

My thinking for this article was influenced by a Career Development Workshop I delivered for newly qualified accountants and the amazing conversations I’ve had with people who are thinking of going freelance.

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