No matter how much introverts like me hate to admit it, none of us are an island. How we work and network with others is pretty essential to how far we can go in our careers. It’s the people behind the brands, companies, organizations, and movements that make people successful so no matter how much we may want to keep to ourselves, at times, we have to branch out.
There’s no denying the importance of a healthy circle and the only way to expand your current one is to let more people in—people that add to you and your ambitious goals. Motivational speaker John Rohn popularized the idea that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and that holds very true across industries, job levels, and types of work goals.
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To have a fighting chance at success, be sure to have these five people in your corner:
1. The Advocate
Position Description: The importance of a mentor is undisputed by most people, but what many don’t talk about is having a strong advocate in your corner. A mentor may give advice and share their knowledge with you, but an advocate will go to bat for you—he or she will go into meetings and bring up your name at the table. The advocate will not only keep you informed on what’s going on, but in essence, work to identify opportunities for you and pull you up among the ranks.
Qualifications: There’s a major difference in qualifications between someone being an advocate versus being a mentor. While a mentor can still advise you even if he or she isn’t sure of your abilities, an advocate has to be a believer, trusting that if they send a client your way or recommend you for an opportunity, that you won’t just be able to handle it, but that you will knock it out of the park.
2. The Sounding Board
Position Description: When you’re thinking about starting a business or going back to school, who do you talk to? Someone who will listen and give constructive feedback. The Sounding Board is a great person to confide in, brainstorm with, and bounce new ideas on.
Qualifications: To be an effective sounding board, he or she can’t be judgmental or dismissive. That type of negative energy can be discouraging and that impediment would be the absolute opposite purpose of sharing ideas with him or her.
3. The Questioner
Position Description: While the Sounding Board may listen reasonably and talk through your ideas without providing a personal opinion, the Questioner is the exact opposite. His or her job is to play “devil’s advocate” and to question your intentions and if your idea is feasible, not to always be encouraging when not warranted. This different perspective can be valuable and expose you to questions that you should be pondering more deeply.
Qualifications: Although they are two totally different positions, the Sounding Board and the Questioner do share similar basic qualifications—criticism, while welcome, still has to be constructive.
4. The Colleague
Position Description: Some challenges are just too specific to your job that most people won’t understand. That’s where the Colleague comes in. Finding someone that’s currently in your same shoes is more than needed—it’s priceless. The Colleague knows your exact situation and can identify with you in ways that others in your circle just can’t.
Qualifications: The Colleague should work in your field in a similar position and face some of your same day-to-day challenges.
5. The Collaborator
Position Description: You know the Collaborator—the person that you share values and goals with but is in a completely different job position. The awesome thing about that is that it’s totally okay that he or she doesn’t do what you do. In fact, it’s a benefit because when you both collab on projects, events, and other ideas, you’ll each pull in a different set of skills and you’ll be stronger together.
Qualifications: The Collaborator should be someone you admire and who you would work well will. Your styles should compliment each other and he or she should be open to new ways of doing things, trusting that you can hold down your part of the partnership.
So, who’s in your power circle? It might be time to grow it.
Arionne Nettles is a professional storyteller—journalist, business writer, and content marketer—specializing in helping people and businesses share their stories on a number of platforms and to a variety of different audiences. Under her company, Fourth Concept Media Group, she applies “4th estate” knowledge of media and journalism to help these brands create content that can leave a mark with their target markets.