Diversifying Your Network of Supportive People

Jake LaCaze posted on Facebook this really interesting TED video by Derek Sivers:

The concept put forth here is certainly thought-provoking. If a person is all talk and no action, that appears to prove the point that telling people your goals will make you less likely to actually carry them out. That doesn’t do you any good.

But there are some things that, by nature, necessitate telling other people. Any aspect of job changing (whether it be because of downsizing, a career change, dissatisfaction with your current company, or aspiring to get a promotion) will be significantly more challenging if you don’t tell anyone. How would you expect your friend Bob to know that connecting you to his other friend Sally would be advantageous because you want to break into her field? How could your cousin introduce you to a hiring manager at her company who is looking for someone with your background? You’ve got to work your network.

In the short conversation Jake and I had about this video, he said, “I guess it comes down to this question: Do you have a network of supportive people who will help you reach your goal?”

Excellent question. And that is precisely the point.

In your circle of trusted advisors, what role does each person play in helping you achieve your goal? Do they give you their true opinions, or do they rubber-stamp everything you say?

Think about it this way — say you are standing in the rain. Which would serve you better: a) to have someone cheering you on as you get soaked, b) someone who gives you an umbrella to keep the rain off, or c) someone who kicks you in the butt and says, “What are you doing out here? Get inside and dry off!” Depending on the circumstances, it would be either B or C.

If you are headed in the right direction, having people who agree with you is fine. But being surrounded by yes-people isn’t going to help you if you are not doing things that will help you do what you aspire to do. You need people who are going to be honest with you.

You should also actively seek out someone who can be the devil’s advocate in the group — someone who will shake up the status quo. A person like that gets you thinking more critically about the choices you make and whether they are really going to get you closer to where you want to go.

As well, you should consider if they all have the same background. If everyone in your network of support works for the same company or is in the same field, the feedback you receive is going to be fairly limited. Involving other folks who can offer opinions from various points of view will give you a more well-rounded picture.

Look at your circle of support and ask Jake’s question: “Do you have a network of supportive people who will help you reach your goal?” What’s your answer?

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