On Strategic Networking & Who to Have in Your Network

A few weeks ago, we focused on the #1 SECRET to successful strategic NETWORKING.  Do you remember the secret?

Networking is NOT about YOU.
It’s about ADDING VALUE.
It’s about GIVING, not taking.

The feedback was very positive when I posted this insight on social media.   One of my connections added an important insight that I want to share with you.  He said: 

“My only watch out with this approach is that many jump into a connection and immediately ask, “How can I add value to you and your business??” Whenever I see this, it feels like I have homework. Now I have to help someone who provides a service I’m not familiar with figure out how they can help me…”

Great point!

When we’re adding value for our current and prospective network, we need to proactively offer them true value, without the expectation of anything from them. Literally asking someone you just met how you can help can be perceived as a thinly-veiled sales pitch!

dont just take, give
image: Unsplash @ fkaregan
OK, got it.
We are generous, and our network grows.

Next Question: 

Who should we have in our network?

Whether you’re a sole proprietor or you’re working you’re way up the corporate ladder at a large firm, I have three suggestions:

  1. seek formal and informal mentors
  2. secure yourself a sponsor
  3. seek diversity in your network
Let’s do this!



A mentor is anyone you trust who can provide you with valuable advice.

have a mentor in your strategic networking
image: unsplash @ amyhirschi

A FORMAL MENTOR is someone who:

  • is senior to you, who is experienced;
  • you trust (you will be 100% transparent with your formal mentor);
  • ideally works outside of your organization (so there’s no conflict of interest);
  • does not receive anything in return for their advice (other than the satisfaction of positively impacting your career – and encouraging you to do the same for someone else someday!).
  • Typically this relationship is formalized verbally.  The mentor and the mentee (you!) both understand their roles in this relationship.

INFORMAL MENTORING is also valuable!

  • Mentoring includes informally asking for feedback or receiving advice from colleagues.
  • If you’re fortunate, you may receive off-the-record mentoring from your boss.
  • As CEO Jill Nykoliation highlighted, you don’t have to formally ask the CEO or other senior executive to be your mentor.  Make yourself a student. Just observe and learn. 



Not surprisingly, research shows that having a sponsor at the right time in your career can elevate your career ascension. 


  • typically, but not always, works at your firm;
  • is senior to you and has influence on your career trajectory (think PROMOTIONS!);
  • is the one to whom you show your best work.
  • Sometimes this relationship is formalized verbally, but not always. 
show your sponsor your best work - strategic networking
image unsplash @ tools_inc

If you work at a small firm where there’s no opportunity to develop a relationship with a sponsor, you can look outside your firm.  Your sponsor could be a client, customer, or another influential, external stakeholder who’s impressed with your work and is happy to elevate you.



Increased diversity in boards and management teams improves performance, in large part due to diversity in perspective.  Diversity in your network can also improve your career, in terms of your access to ideas, jobs, and people.

Recently I took a critical look at my network, and I realized most of my “active” network consists of podcasters and coaches, plus some professors and marketers.

Of course, I value these connections! But my network was not diverse. So went out of my way to attend networking events (offline and online) and connect with different people. My effort has already paid off.  I encourage you to do the same!

diversity in your strategic networking
image: unsplash clay banks


✅ diversity across discipline – inside & outside your discipline
✅ diversity across industry – inside & outside your industry
✅ inside and outside your firm
✅ diversity across age & seniority – young & old; junior & senior to you
gender diversity, racial diversity… – people who don’t look like you!

How diverse is your network?


Now you know the secret to successful networking (offering value!) and 3 things to consider about who to include in your network:

  1. seek formal and informal mentors
  2. secure yourself a sponsor
  3. seek diversity 
netowrk is cheering for youimage unsplash @ jaime lopez

You’ve got this!

Please forward this email to anyone who might appreciate insights on networking and communication skills. Thank you! 

Talk soon,

Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
Chief Talker & Communication Coach

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