As a natural part of my empowerment consulting practice, I often find myself in discussions with my clients about their jobs and careers. Sometimes we talk about new jobs or job opportunities; sometimes we talk about promotions; sometimes we talk about careers over the long-term.
These are all very different types of conversations. Most of my clients who are in corporations are mid-level to senior-level managers, who are competent and have already proven their value to the company. I also work with clients who are outside the corporate structure or are consultants to corporations, with whom career development conversations are different.
It is common for people to want to have a career development plan. Many think that those successful individuals who have preceded them in the corporation had a plan to get where they got. Some did, but quite honestly, it is easier for them to claim that they had a plan with the benefit of hindsight and success than to produce the plan they wrote years before.
There is a whole field of professionals who offer career development resources and consulting. I think their services can be extremely valuable, especially when moving from one company to another. I am more familiar with helping people to advance and develop careers within the same company, as an integral part of my consultations. And so, that is my focus in this article.
In these client conversations about career development within the same company, I usually fairly quickly replace the concept of a “career development plan” with a “career networking plan” or a “career development networking plan.”
I’ve been working with a client who has been kicking and screaming about the idea of networking. She has been doing excellent work and feels she should be promoted based on her work. In one way, she’s absolutely correct. However, at her level in the organization, not only are there fewer openings, but a group of disparate persons with their own agendas usually decides about promotions and job changes.
When multiple persons with all different needs are involved in such a decision, there must be agreement that she is the one to promote or accept or move. Such a scenario usually requires more than doing the requisite job skills well. In most cases, the “more” comes down to ongoing activities she must be engaged in: networking and building authentic relationships.
I want to be clear, when I speak about career development networking, I do not mean to start networking to get a job that is now in the interview stage; my view is that this narrow type of networking is more appropriately called “lobbying.” Instead, I am speaking about networking over the years — building relationships that are two-way, developing collaborative partnerships, feeling appreciation about interactions, expressing sincere congratulations when others are promoted, and engaging in conversations about a variety of topics.
When many individuals are all well-qualified for a job, something “more” must stand out in the final candidate. This “more” may be related to job accomplishments, but likely, the “more” is related to relationships — perhaps the one who is best known, or the one who is most liked, or the one who has consistently good interactions with others.
The candidate who is well-networked is likely to increase the chances that all the decision-makers will agree, “this is the one.” There might sometimes be a thrill about a hotly contested position, but all things considered, the best transitions take place when there’s general agreement to select the final candidate.