This post is about networking, friendship, and creating community, and was written in a state of wistfulness.This Memorial day weekend marked the second time in ten years that a group of friends and I did not gather for an annual reunion at the beach. We'll catch up later. But in the interim, these friends will make a cameo appearance...
My annual gathering is with a community of friends. It's a community that was started when three childhood friends decided they wanted to stay in touch forever. And they wanted for their college friends to know each other. And their friends of their friends to know one another. And their families. They promised each other that they would always get together for a week at the beach after Memorial Day. And they've done just that. (I was invited in a dozen years ago, as the "friend of a sister of a friend.")
My friends and I have a somewhat secret name for our gatherings, a flag (which may or may not be in a basement in Chicago), and photo albums that show many rites of passage. After a rocky start during college years, we have an increasingly strong record with rental agents, as the houses we rent have fewer repair requests. We also have a bond: Many of us don't talk during the year, but we know that we'll catch up on a beach, and that if any of us needed anything in the interim--we'd do what we can to help one another out. Over the years, there have been times when we've all needed this support. (When I was drafting my eBook recently for the Microsoft My Resume Talks campaign, I turned to one of these friends for an early Monday morning review--and she helped me out.)
Networking guru Keith Ferrazzi says that this kind of community support and encouragement is essential to success. It is much harder to achieve measurable results without it.
But beyond saying it's important, how do we create a community if an invitation hasn't been extended? Fortunately, Ferrazzi provides insight on how to make this happen. In his first book, Never Eat Alone, Ferrazzi shares suggestions and practical advice for initiating and developing strong relationships with others. (Tip: It's about having real conversations and not being afraid to share your vulnerabilities.)
But between the publication of Never Eat Alone and his new release, "Who's Got Your Back?" Ferrazzi found himself in a funny place. As he tells it, he had "success, money, recognition, well-paid speaking engagements, a stack of appreciative fan mail, and a professional and social network the size of a metropolitan phone book." He also felt overwhelmed and isolated. As he tells it, "It felt as if I was at a pool party, surrounded by friends and acquaintances, but instead of mingling and passing drinks, I was alone in the deep end of the pool, struggling just to keep my head above water...and no one seemed to notice."
In his new book, Who's Got Your Back, Ferrazzi tells the story of how he got out of the deep end: He developed his own web of support to help him improve his business and his overall outlook. He also shares with you a formula for how you can create your own network. Here are three lessons I take away from "Who's Got Your Back":
Lesson 1: Mentors are not enough. In mentoring relationships, the "balance of authority is heavily weighted towards the mentor." This isn't all bad, but you need a place where it's equal, too.
You need peers who are having similar experiences to your own. These are your "lifelines." As Ferrazzi defines it, "A lifeline relationship is one between equals, between peers, between individuals who can be intellectual sparring partners and confidants."
Lesson 2: If you're trying to achieve a goal outside your comfort zone, you need people who've been there to help you through your goal. You may need to invite new people in to achieve your goal.
Your current circle of mentors, peers, friends and family, may not be able to help you move towards the direction of where you need to go. Recognizing and getting help from people who can is an important part of the process. (Note: While I adore my community of friends, it isn't appropriate "lifeline" to me in terms of my work as a career coach and resume writer...a majority of my professional mentors and "lifelines" have some form of expertise in my field--it helps us understand and encourage one another.)
Lesson 3: You need people in your corner who will disagree with you.
"Yes-Men" and "Yes-Women" may be good for the ego, but it's not good for your long-term growth. You need people on your team who will challenge you. Friendly debates and respectful dissent is an important part of the process.
If you are on the cusp of a major career shift, stuck, or simply want a little help in pursuing your career goals, I strongly recommend seeking out the advice of a professional--as well as a community of support that can help you in achieving your goals. Professional associations, clubs, and interest groups such as my Job Seekers MeetUp group are all great ways to find support. But, as a bonus: Keith Ferrazzi has also created the "Greenlight Community," a virtual community of support. Check it out, and remember, "It's not who you know that counts...it's who knows you back!"