“We are constituted so that simple acts of kindness, such as giving to charity or expressing gratitude, have a positive effect on our long-term moods. The key to a happy life, it seems, is the good life: a life with sustained relationships, challenging work, and connections to the community.” Paul Bloom, Yale Professor of Psychology
A few years ago I was invited to speak with a group of staff members about building and sustaining a professional network. The thoughts I shared seemed to me to also be applicable to building and maintaining a long-term career and to leading organizations that are healthy, joyful even. Here are four of them.
First – do good work.
It all starts here – leadership, a healthy network, a healthy organization. If we don’t do good work, no one wants to hire us or be linked to us. Good work, day after day, and year after year is the fundamental basis of our professional networks, our long-term career, and being seen as a leader. That doesn’t mean we can’t make mistakes. We do need to be reliable and competent.
Second – help other people.
Find a way to help other people accomplish what they value. Volunteer for a committee, support someone’s great idea or find some other way to bring your good work to someone else’s project. We build the strongest careers and networks because of what we give rather than what we are trying to get.
Third – it’s okay to be strategic.
Part of successful giving is making sure you give in ways that are productive and don’t cause you to burnout. (See Dr. Adam Grant’s work.) With so many ways to make a difference and benefit both organizations and communities, it makes sense to find opportunities to both support others and help yourself learn and grow.
Fourth – use all of the methods.
Networking doesn’t have to mean going to an awkward mixer where you don’t know anyone. Social media used well can be effective. Professional organizations or local community groups who are doing work you want to support are also important. Robust networks and long-term careers take time and attention.
“Study of successful newcomers: they don’t try to build a personal brand across a broad network. They focus on developing relationships where they can build and share knowledge and skills. Networking is really about learning and helping. #TuesdayThoughts” From @AdamMGrant on Twitter
I originally wrote something about this conversation with staff several years before I learned about Adam Grant’s work (see https://www.adamgrant.net), but he provides the research data that backs up what I have believed for years – it is possible to be successful in a career by doing good work and supporting others.