Simple practical steps on building your thought partner network

networks - being connected

Are you wondering how you can build your career in other ways rather than further study? Want more support than what you get from your current team? Do you work in a one-person bandwagon role?

Consider building a thought partner network.

By building a thought partner network, you will have more purpose, direction and support, which will result in you being more engaged, and finding greater satisfaction and success in what you do. Just remember that success is not just about power and money, but also about living in accordance with your core values that drive who you are and what you do in life.

Here are a few tips and suggestions on how to build your thought partner network:

  1. Connect with the key thought leaders in your workplace.
    Work out who are the key thought leaders in your workplace. You may work in different roles and departments, but they might be able to offer useful advice and insight that could help you do your job.
  2. Join local Meet-Up groups or industry groups.
    If there aren’t any in your areas of interest then try online forums or see this as an opportunity to set one up yourself. This can help you get out and meet people, connect with individuals who you might be able to exchange and bounce ideas off later down the track. By networking like this it will help you gain a new perspective and an insight into how others tackle situations. Start off by searching in Meetup.com and LinkedIn.
  3. Professional Coaching.
    You will have the opportunity to discuss things in detail while having the confidence that everything you discuss is just between you and your coach. Coaching will help you form an understanding as to where you are at both personally and professionally today, create what is possible for you in the future and then bridge the gap that exists between the two. If you do not want to pay for coaching, it is worth asking your manager if your company might pay for it as part of your professional development. Having had a coach myself, I can say it is really beneficial and has helped me work towards where I want to be in my career. Find out more about coaching through Potentia.
  4. Professional Mentor.
    A professional mentor is someone who you share the same values with, is on the same page as you and is in a position to guide you. When looking for a mentor remember it doesn’t have to be someone new to your life or someone who is a superstar. It can be someone who has a skill or talent that fits in line with your values and can help you get there. Also, remember if you don’t feel like you have found the right mentor, keep searching. If you are not sure where to find a mentor try Business Mentor New Zealand or contact your industry membership association as many have mentoring programmes and can point you in the right direction or put out the word for you.

    When you find the right mentor, make sure you set up professional meetings to ensure you stay on topic. To have a good mentor/mentee relationship you need to be prepared for your catch-ups and have done your homework before meeting them. I suggest reading 10 questions to consider when working with a business mentor.
  5. Connect or follow key thought leaders in your industry.
    Industry leaders are often busy individuals so it might be difficult to actually connect with them in person. However, read and follow their blogs, books, social media accounts (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn) and products, as there will be a lot you can learn from them.

    By doing this, you can learn what is happening in your industry and gain an insight into how and what made them successful. Don’t forget to look at where they have also failed as you can learn from their failures as failure is the building blocks to success.
  6. Regularly read/digest news in your speciality and career.
    As well as having connected with your industry leaders, you should keep up to date with the latest news/developments in your area. This will help motivate you and think outside the square (doesn’t always need to come directly from people). Try out Smartbrief as a starting point and if you work in IT in NZ the CIO. It can also help to set up a RSS field through a programme such as Feedly where you can aggregate all the news and split them up into folders.
  7. Finally be open to helping others.
    The old adage states that what you teach, you gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of. You’ll be surprised at how satisfying it can be to help others and whom they could, in turn, connect you to.

By now, you should have some starting points on how to start or build onto your thought partner network. If you have other methods that have worked for you, please share, as I’d love to be able to add to this list.