You Shouldn’t Always Rely on Friends and Family to Support Your Career

April 13, 2017, 10:00 PM UTC
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The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “How can you find career support outside of your friends and family?” is written by Karin Davies, senior vice president of human resources at Peak 10.

Friends and family are great to lean on for advice, but they aren’t always available. In those situations, I have to turn to other people in my life to help me get through professional conundrums.

First and foremost, I try to network with other human resources professionals. For example, a Peak 10 employee team competes annually in the YMCA of Greater Charlotte’s C2 survival race against seven other local businesses. As part of this effort, I’ve created strong professional relationships with other HR professionals in the area. I often rely on them to help me with HR-specific issues I’m having at work.

I often plan continuing education events in the HR field with past bosses and colleagues. This offers us valuable networking time. As we have had similar professional experiences and already know each other well, we can focus our evenings and breaks on taking deeper dives into the session topics. This helps us not only bring better ideas back to the office, but it also re-strengthens and deepens our relationships. We often reference knowledge or practices gleaned from these continuing education events to help each other with work-related problems.

You can also find career support from working with organizations related to your industry or profession. Doing so helps you meet people outside of your organization who still understand the work you do. If the organization has subcommittee work available, try it out. You might find people who can offer advice or ideas for your current projects at work.

If you’re far enough in your career, you might want to consider taking a board position at one of these organizations. Such boards are fantastic places to find powerful contacts in your field, create new business relationships, and give you future career ideas. Accepting a board role can be daunting, so make sure you have enough time to do it and that the work will be relevant to your career.

Keeping in contact with old mentors, whether from a past job or networking group, is also incredibly important. Even if you think you know the answers to some work-related issues, it always helps to run them by people that you trust. They can often provide guidance and push you to look at things from a different angle.

Lastly, I’ve found it valuable to create a 30-minute bimonthly call with past colleagues to discuss a dedicated topic that’s meaningful to the group. You can think of it as a kind of professional book club. Select a moderator who facilitates the discussion around three to four questions, and have that last 10 to 15 minutes. Then open the floor to pressing issues that the call participants could use advice on. These topics can include a general conundrum about someone’s career or a particular scenario someone is struggling with at work.

By spreading a wide net across your professional network, you’ll find that you have more people around you than you expected that are happy to offer help or advice.

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