There was a time when I didn’t have a supportive professional network. Like many women, I clung to the relationships I did have even though they were hurting me and not helping me.
One of the reasons it took me two years to start LaunchWhileWorking.com was the ill-intentioned advice I received from a woman I considered a close trusted advisor. She didn’t think it was a good idea and didn’t like the name “employedpreneur” (a term I coined for full-time employees with part-time businesses). So I filed the thought away. At least I tried to. The idea of helping people who were, like me, launching a business while working full-time was something I just couldn’t shake.
In 2011, I launched the site and started a Facebook Group for employedpreneurs. I also started a podcast called Launch Talk. At its height, Launch Talk was getting over 6,500 downloads a month. In 2012, my work with Launch While Working led to an Honorable Mention as a Small Business Influencer. In 2013, I won the Small Business Influencer Top 100 Champion Award. Imagine my shock when the woman that told me she didn’t like the name later advised me that I should use “Employedpreneur” more in my branding, and said how great my idea was, as if we had never talked about it before.
That relationship showed me that I needed different women in my circle. I set an intention to connect to powerful women who were living with passion and purpose. I am amazed now when I look at the brilliant women I am connected to. They are women who generously sow into my life and so brilliantly show up in the world to make an impact in the lives of others.
My connection to the Brilliant Business Girlfriends in my circle are not a coincidence. I read everything I could about how to create a powerful professional network. I found plenty of articles on where to find people, how and when to connect to them, and even what to say to attract them. What I didn’t find was a list of the types of people I needed to have in my network. So I created a list that focused on the kinds of people to include in a bankable professional network:
This is the person who has reached the level of success you aspire to have. You can learn from their success as well as their mistakes. Heed their wisdom and experience. Many mentoring relationships last over a period of years, with different peaks of interaction and communication. Mentors offer a unique perspective because they have known you through several peaks and valleys in your life and watched you evolve.
The coach is someone who comes in at different times in your life. They help with critical decisions and transitions, and offer an objective view with no strings attached. These relationships are short-term, with different situations requiring a different coach to help you clarify, create, and evaluate a targeted plan of action. They also hold you accountable for the goals you have for yourself and your business.
This is someone in your field who has expert-level information or access to it. This person will keep you educated and in the know of what’s happening now and what the next big thing is. Learn from them and invite them to be a sounding board for your next innovative idea or concept.
This is someone outside of your chosen industry or niche who always has the latest buzz. It can be on any topic that you find interesting or that has been labeled “hot.” The goal in having this person in your network is to look for those connections that spark innovation via the unconventional. It will also help keep you and your conversations interesting.
This is a person who has access to people, resources, and information. As soon as they come across something related to you, they are sending you an email or picking up the phone. Your Connector is the person in your circle that constantly gets and answers the question, “Do you know anyone who…?” Connectors are great at uncovering unique ways to make connections, and finding resources and opportunities that most people would overlook.
This is the person in your network whom you can dream with. No matter how “out there” your latest idea is, this is the person who will help you brainstorm ways to make it happen, even if your plans seem totally unrealistic right now. We all need that person who will help us think of potential “how’s” without judging our ideas.
True to their name, the Realist will help you keep it real. This is the brave soul who will lovingly give you the raised eyebrow when your expectations exceed your effort. These are not people who knock down your dreams. They do challenge you to actively make your dreams happen, though. The realist in your life will lovingly ask how you plan to get promoted when you show up late to every meeting. Or graciously point out how saying that you want to build your bank account conflicts with maxing out your credit cards for a 5-day trip to Jamaica.
Visionaries inspire you by the journey that they are on. They are similar to the Idealist, but the visionary can help you see how to make your dream a reality because they have manifested their own dreams. One personal encounter with this type of person can powerfully change the direction of your thinking and your life. These are the people whose columns, blogs, and books we read. Or whom we sit with in a coffee shop for hours, listening and learning from their lives.
You need to have someone who is in a similar place and on a similar path to share your journey with. In this relationship, there is a shared intention of success through sharing. This is a person you can share the wins and woes with. Partners also generously share resources, opportunities, and information. With a true partner there is no competition, jealousy, or envy.
This is someone you can serve as a mentor to. Someone you can sow into and guide based on your experiences and lessons lived. One of the best motivators for pushing through obstacles and hardships is knowing that someone is watching your journey. Consider how many people start to straighten their lives out once they realize they are setting an example for their children.
Whether you are an employee, an employedpreneur, or an entrepreneur, having a strong support system is critical to pursuing your purpose and manifesting your vision. Obviously, you will want to have more than ten people in your network. The trick is to make sure that you are building a diverse network by adding people from different industries, backgrounds, age groups, ethnic groups, etc., who fit into the roles listed above. Building a network by only including people from your current niche, work, religion, or hobbies leaves so many stones unturned and limits your potential opportunities.
If you are serious about building a bankable professional network evaluate your current connections and get started filling in the gaps. Remember to focus on quality first and then quantity to ensure you build a well-rounded network.
Tai Goodwin on a mission to help 10,000 women entrepreneurs create more joy and wealth in their life and business. She's the CEO of Aligned + Bankable and creator of the Bankable Brilliance Course. An intuitive business growth strategist and teacher, her specialty is helping clients create bankable business models that allow them to increase their impact and income without burning out. Tai is a former corporate trainer with a master's degree in instructional design and over 20 years of experience designing course, training programs, and certifications. She is also the author of Girlfriend, It's Your Time and founder of Brilliant Business Girlfriends.