Three People You Need in Your Network

I recently interviewed Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley on my SiriusXM radio show “Career Talk*” where she spoke about the three types of professional relationships you need to succeed. While each role overlaps in certain ways, there are also key differences that can have a major impact on your career.

Advisors are those individuals who offer feedback, insights, and advice on a particular topic suited to their expertise. Often conversations are “one-off” or occasional and you’d seek input from an advisor when you’re stuck on a specific project or perhaps need an introduction. Conversations are usually targeted on the problem versus the person.

Relationships with Mentors tend to be deeper and longer-term than relationships with Advisors. Mentors tend to be seasoned professionals and usually provide advice on career path, professional development, and personal growth, so it’s important that they truly understand their mentees, including their struggles, successes and everything in between.

Sponsors are higher-ups within your organization who have a seat at the decision-making table and can directly influence the trajectory of your career.  Sponsors should be aware of your best work, achievements, and goals so that they advocate for you when you’re not in the room.

So how can you develop these relationships?

Since the relationships with Advisors are usually targeted, finding an expert to help when needed can be as simple as tapping into your network.

Mentors and Sponsors are a little bit harder to cultivate since their role requires more personal investment and time. In many cases they choose you or the relationships form naturally after a bit of proactive networking on your part. However there are some things you can do to inspire these relationships.

For ideas on how to get noticed by a Sponsor, check out this article.

If you’re looking for a Mentor, try these:

  • Check with your company. More organizations are recognizing the value of mentoring in retention, advancement, and career satisfaction.
  • Join professional organizations and industry groups. Many have mentoring programs, especially for junior individuals looking to grow in the field.
  • Consider a virtual mentor. Online platforms like LinkedIn offer ways to get connected to professionals. For Entrepreneurs, try SCORE, for students, try iMentor and for STEM, try MentorNet.
  • If you’re more seasoned. Consider organizing a small professional alliance of peers, joining a BNI group, or establishing a personal board of directors.

Like most things in life, having the right people in your circle will make the path to success much smoother.

Happy hunting!

*For more great tips from Carla Harris, check out the podcast here.

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