A cell phone is a wonderful invention and makes it very easy to conduct business from virtually anywhere, speak to anyone at any time without any geographical constraints and can help you with almost anything.
However, if your phone is not connected to a network, that little piece of gold in your hand can perform only a limited number of functions and cannot fulfil its intended purpose or reach its full potential.
The idea of a cell phone without a network is much the same as a working woman without a network – you will struggle to reach your full potential without a good, reliable, and strong network to support you.
In the same way as a tribe or a “community” is invaluable in our personal lives, a network will be crucial to your career.
There is a quote that reads – “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”… I partially agree with these words but want to expand on it a little by saying: It’s not just what you know or who you know – who knows YOU also plays a crucial role in the success of your career.
Let’s me explain;
What you know remains very important. This includes what you studied, the experience you have built up over the years, the research, reading and self-study you continuously do, and all your combined knowledge.
Who YOU know also plays a big role. It’s very important to be able to identify the right people who can play a part in taking your career to the next level. But simply being aware of these individuals is not enough.
Who knows YOU is important. It’s one thing simply being aware of someone who could potentially open certain doors for you. But it’s something entirely different being in a relationship with this person.
In order to be a successful working mom, you and I both need to realise that we cannot do this alone. Well, we can certainly give it a try, but I can guarantee that the road to success is going to become a long, lonely, and gruelling one when you are travelling alone.
When we have a network of people who support and encourage us, who are willing to stick their necks out for us on occasion, who mentor us, share their connections with us, and travel along this journey with us, you and I won’t only be able to enjoy more job satisfaction, but potentially we will also be able to achieve our goals quicker.
Very hard work and a relentless work ethic remain two ingredients without which you’ll certainly not be able to achieve success in the workplace- even with a strong network. Hard work, a great work ethic AND a good network offer a straighter path to your dreams.
There are a few myths surrounding networking that we just need lay to rest first:
- MYTH: You only need to network when you want to change jobs or are looking for a job.
- Reality: A network involves establishing connections that both parties can benefit from on a professional level. Although your network and the connections you make CAN lead to new job opportunities – this is not necessarily the focus of your network. A network can help you tremendously with regards to promoting you in your current position.
- MYTH: It’s not a good idea for your boss to know that you’re networking.
- Reality: Most bosses are 100% PRO a network because they realise the value a network could have for their own business. In addition, when you develop yourself further through your network, you bring valuable new skills to the workplace.
- MYTH: Building a network is something extroverts are good at, but introverts struggle with.
- Reality: Building a network doesn’t mean you have to be the most “outgoing” person in the room. In fact, the focus is on forming one on one connections and building relationships.
- MYTH: Networking events are a waste of time.
- Reality: Sometimes you won’t find someone who resonates with you or appeals to you at these arranged events, but at other times you may meet someone you can build a relationship with who could eventually become part of your network. Don’t dismiss these events as opportunities, but also bear in mind that this isn’t the only way to build valuable connections.
Building a network does not happen overnight or by chance. Your network should be a group of people that you have chosen INTENTIONALLY (and who in turn have chosen YOU).
Your network operates on trust and respect. And that’s why there are some unspoken rules.:
- The relationship should be meaningful to both parties – one hand washes the other.
- There may never be any form of abuse present in this type of relationship AND;
- A mutual feeling “if I move up, I’ll take you with me” should exist.
Building a quality network does not happen overnight. I believe it’s similar to the concept of lifelong learning. In much the same way as always being willing to learn and grow, you must also be willing to continuously build and sand and chip away at your network. And in this way, you form part of other wonder women’s networks where you can support and help them when the opportunity arises.
There are a few important characteristics your network needs to have:
- It should not be tied to a specific place – it should be able to move with you. In other words, your network should not only be beneficial or to your advantage where you currently find yourself but should help you get to where you want to be in 2 and 5 and 10 years’ time.
- Your network needs to be supportive and should be able to pick you up when you fall and help you get back onto your feet.
- Your network needs to be dynamic – it must be able to change as your needs change.
- Your network needs to be liberating. You must have the support to enable you to move when the time is right and not to feel tied to a specific time or place.
- Your network must be POWERFUL. This network’s goal is to help you move forward and a strong network will do exactly that.
Remember that your network consists of many people and therefore one “person” will certainly not be able to embody all these characteristics. The wider your network, the bigger the chance of advancement, growth and opportunities.
In order to build this type of network, you will need to become very intentional with the connections you form. You will need to be proactive and prioritise these relationships. Someone you last spoke to at school could hardly be expected to stick their neck out for you when you need their help 20 years later.
It reminds me of Mafia movies – they’ll help you out, but then you need to know that they’re going to expect something in return and at some point, you will need to repay the favour.
Still not convinced about this network “thing”? Here’s a few examples from my own life:
My first job as a teacher was at the school where my Mom worked.
- I got an interview for my second teaching position without submitting my CV because someone recommended me to the principal.
- My first business came about through mutual friends and because I was coaching my business partner’s little girl in athletics at the time;
- I managed to get the premises for my second branch of Pienkvoet-Pret from my husband’s boss who kindly offered me a free room at school because he knew us;
- I would never have known about the opportunity to open a Baby House in Midstream without someone in my network telling me about it;
- Being able to open a day spa without any experience;
- Getting asked to be on a reality show due to someone in my network telling the producer about me;
- The fact that I can live my passion and chat to you now on this platform…
AND SO MUCH MORE would not have been possible if I didn’t have a network that supported me in some way, believed in me, stuck their necks out for me, or simply steered me in the right direction.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my network (and I am so very grateful).
That’s why I want to encourage you to take a step back today and look at your network and the people you have gathered around you. Be thankful for everyone who helped you along the way, in whatever big or small way, to get to where you are today.
Remember that you are NOT an island and that none of us were made to go through life alone.