This article on network must-haves, How Impressive Are Your Associates, originaly appeared in Leaders In Heels

Did you ever go out on the town with a better-looking buddy and feel benefit of their inferred glow? Maybe you were the better-looking mate and felt others dragging you down?


The same thing applies to your network. Your network is not simply for job-hunting. It adds an extra-mile kind of dimension to how you perform on the job. Bouncing an idea off a credible colleague is more reliable and cost effective than outsourcing the advice. Indeed your network should make up a core part of your development plans.

your network adds an extra-mile dimension to how you perform on the job


Who Are Your Network Must-Haves?

Mentors and potential mentors should be your top priority. Not formal mentorships, but simply connections you can pose a question every now and then who may equally benefit from your skill set in some way. For broad based development you should be able to name a handful of people you consider to be mentors in different areas.

These are the network must-haves that most frequently come up as gaps for people in my Exec Coaching work:

Your board of mentors should include a brilliant people leader, a stellar communicator, a finance guru, a strategy nut, an innovator and a Me-Plus

A stellar communicator.

Not just a person who can (as my Irish father-in-law says of my 3 year old) ‘buy and sell the lot of us’, but someone who is able to understand and be understood. A person you can put a particular problem to and hear what their approach might be.

There may be a past boss you reported to who was a brilliant people manager, someone who inspired individual performance from the least motivated of team members.


An inclusive leader

Perhaps you know of someone who lived diversity: someone who effortlessly but proactively engaged a diverse stakeholder group that embodied participation and inclusion in a non-patronising way. I’d want them in my network!!


A plain – talking numbers guru

Whether numbers are your strong point or not, it’s likely that there’s at least an area within the financials that you could do with greater insight. It’s worth having someone who’s finance skill you trust in your network. Someone who can tell you what questions you need to ask, in order not to fall prey to a skills gap.


A strategy nut

Whatever role you’re in or heading for, it’s useful-to-critical that you have a strategic orientation. If you haven’t got one, you need a buddy who can on occasion provide you with insight. Worked with anyone who you would say has that? Have a chat with them. Connect. Ask them for some pointers.


An innovator

It seems you’re either born to creativity or you’re not. But today’s workplace demands innovation. New ways to be faster, more productive, more web centric, finding fresh solutions, capturing new markets, retaining loyalty in changing market. Connecting with colleagues past or present who are creative thinkers or great problem solvers is a game-changer. These people are certainly network must-haves.

Networking is all about establishing enough of a relationship that if you or they have a quick question to ask, then they / you can offer an idea.


A You-Plus

This is someone who does what you do and does it well. When you’re so entrenched you need someone who can give you the advice you would give yourself if you had the time and distance to be objective. Ok, so you might need more than one of these to avoid burning them out!


Most of us have a network made up either of buddies, or of our LinkedIn-prompted past and current colleagues. They’re fantastic for keeping up to date with what’s happening elsewhere in your industry, so you can hear about trends and innovations. Don’t have time to search through industry papers and articles? Perhaps a colleague had 5 minutes today to read and share something brilliant. Your network is less costly than consultants and less time consuming than industry events.


In addition to being a far more trusted, relevant, up to date source of answers than Wikipedia, your network must-haves can of course be a great source of referrals when job opportunities are opening up. Up to 80% of new hires are sourced through word of mouth after all. Speaking of which, if you come across a good head hunter or recruiter, connect and be good to them – they’re your ticket to the roles that don’t go through word of mouth!


What holds you back from approaching this board of mentors?

I find there are two things. Self-doubt (they’re way too busy to spend time with me); or lack of clarity (once I know where I’m heading, then I’ll ask for their advice). If either of those are a challenge for you, our Webinar on Overcoming Self Doubt will be useful. We recorded it a few weeks back, you can catch the recording HERE.


Cath Nolan

MD, Gender Gap Gone

Ready to take the next step in your career? Let’s talk about how a Coach might benefit you. Email me directly at to line up a conversation.


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