“It’s the people we hardly know, and not our closest friends, who will improve our lives most dramatically. ” ― Meg Jay

You are in charge of your career

At a time when corporate and employee loyalty no longer lasts decades and can be as short as a year or two, it’s no longer safe to assume that those higher than you in your organization are invested in helping you rise to the next step and beyond. Although some companies are proactive in helping their employees develop, many are not. Today, when multiple job changes or career shifts are the norm, your network is more critical than ever in providing the support and feedback needed to chart your own course.

What do you need from your network?

In her Harvard Business Review article,Everyone’s Network Should Provide Two Things“; Liane Davey explains that networks need to provide two things; advice and mentoring that help you achieve your goals and emotional support. Today’s mostly technology-based networks are great for supplying informational support from diverse sources who can offer industry insights or introductions, for example, but they aren’t great for providing emotional support. Think about it. Would you reach out to a LinkedIn contact if you’re feeling down about a fault-finding manager or an argument with your partner and need a supportive ear? Networking contacts that can provide psychosocial investment take time to develop and nurture. They require face-to-face contact – sharing a cup of coffee, volunteering side-by-side at a food pantry, walking the kids to school together. How often do we dismiss these activities as frivolous, telling ourselves that we don’t have time? As Davey suggests, make sure you have both kinds of networks, not just one.

Prioritize face-to-face

Entrepreneur and bestselling author Melissa Smith counsels her clients to prioritize in-person networking. “I believe there is no substitute for being in the same room as other people. Also, most business people believe they can judge a person’s character and knowledge within the first few minutes of meeting you. This process takes much longer online.” The Internet makes connecting with others easy but it doesn’t substitute for building relationships that require time and effort to develop.

Advice from networking experts

I asked some networking gurus, Michael Roderick, founder of Small Pond Enterprises and Robbie Samuels, host of the On the Schmooze Podcast why it’s important for people to diversify their networks. Here’s what they had to say…

Robbie: “While there is comfort in being surrounded by people who share our identity and experience, a continuous effort must be made to diversify our professional network, or we risk being limited by the echo chamber of sameness. I encourage my clients to attend events where they will have the opportunity to connect with people with different life experiences as our most innovative ideas come from the outer edges of our network.”

Michael: “Simply put, when we don’t diversify our networks, we create our own echo chamber. Our industries have their own language and set beliefs which makes it very easy to get comfortable and not question anything. By engaging with outside perspectives, we can become more innovative and also gain more respect for other people’s points of view. Diversifying where we get our information from, gives us the gift of seeing things through a lens that is not our own and that is something that is sorely needed in corporate culture.”

Networking is to your professional and mental fitness what exercise is to your physical health. The more you invest in diversifying your network, the richer it becomes.

About the author

Susan Peppercorn is a coach with a passion for helping others thrive in their careers. She is the author of the new bestseller, Ditch Your Inner Critic At Work: Evidence-Based Strategies To Thrive In Your Career available on Amazon. To get her free career-fit self-assessment, click HERE.

Originally published at www.linkedin.com