Having worked 30 years in the technology business, I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people. It is easy for me to see that my network has gotten me to where I am today. There was a time, however, that I really didn’t understand the importance of career network building.
It took a tough lesson for me to learn how much developing your career network matter…
Career Network Building
About 10 years into my tenure at Oracle, I had the opportunity to interview for a leadership role under the president of Oracle North America. I knew that the position would be a stretch for me, but I had a few people encourage me to apply. So, I went for it.
I didn’t get the role, but what I did get was the all-time best career advice that I’ve ever received. Initially, I figured that I wasn’t hired because I didn’t answer the questions the right way or my strategy was off. But his feedback was more pointed and personal than that.
He told me: “No one really knows you.”
I took a lot of pride in the quality of my work at that time, and he explained that while I was an “A student” and had demonstrated that I could get results, if I wanted to have a bigger-picture career, I would need to focus on career network building.
Why It Matters
His point wasn’t that success is driven by being popular around the office, but that business is a team sport, and I wasn’t going to be able to get the kind of results I wanted in this bigger role if I didn’t have strong advocates within the company who knew what I was capable of—and would go to bat for me.
This moment was a hard one, but it ended up kickstarting a completely new perspective on my career.
I realized then that I had always felt like I had to be all business. I loved what I did and often worked through my lunches. But I generally didn’t place a premium on seeking out people who were not directly related to the current projects that I was working on.
Connected Means Results
Career network building isn’t easy, and it has to come from an authentic place. I had to make it a serious priority, getting outside of my comfort zone and looking for ways to engage people in new and different settings. I also had to focus in on understanding what the people around me were trying to achieve. Then, I had to see how I might be able to help them get there. This process proved to be rich with learning, and I am sure I’m a better leader today because of these experiences.
The person who ended up landing that role at Oracle over 20 years ago had what it took. She was trusted and everyone knew who she was. And when she moved on from the position a few years later, I ended up getting her job. Hard work alone didn’t get me that position; it was connectedness.
I now know that the combination of a results orientation and a strong network are incredibly powerful. So I’ll pass on the advice: Take the time for career network building.
For this post, we’d like to thank our friends at Levo.