The biggest predictor of career success

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Whether it’s the creative value of diversity, the importance of relationships, or the significance of using our energies to give back to others- Rich Hirst takes a professional look at how these qualities, which are so foundational to our Forum message, can also be predictors for career success.

According to multiple, peer-reviewed studies is being in an ‘open network’ instead of a closed one. IQ, EQ, talent, strengths, determination, curiosity, engagement, and passion of course all play a role but are not sufficient for career success.

Research by network scientist Ron Burt Professor of Sociology and Strategy at the University of Chicago reveals that half of the predicted difference in career success (i.e., promotion, compensation, industry recognition) is due to the structure of one’s networks.

People with open networks are constantly exposed to new ideas providing new ways to look at old problems, meeting and connecting new people with skills and mindsets that stretch each other’s way of thinking. By bringing together people of different backgrounds, you gain the ability to escape a single group’s echo chamber and avoid errors caused by groupthink, as well as gaining the immense creative potential of combining ideas from different fields.

It is human nature to seek out those similar and familiar to us. We feel most safe in a closed network, but in so doing we limit our capacity to learn and grow ourselves and others.

Seth Godin, marketing guru, entrepreneur and best selling author talks passionately about how we are living in a time of the ‘connection revolution’.

Connection not competence is changing the world. The industrial revolution rewarded those who built things, rail roads, buildings, factories. The connection revolution rewards those that build bridges between people.

Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter echoed similar sentiments saying
“The most radical thing we can do is connect people to one other. That starts conversations toward a vision for change.”

At this time of year resolutions are being broken as quickly as they are made. If there is one resolution however that you stick to then intentionally building an open network would be well worth considering, benefiting not only your career but also the company you work for.

Solutions exist to every challenge and opportunity you and your company will face this year however the answers may not reside within the existing closed network your company operates in. No matter how intelligent and capable the people are in your organisation, there are many more smart people outside your company that in it. The most progressive organisations are actively encouraging their employees to build open networks. As Seth Godin says

“All of us are smarter than any of us.” Three quick tips on building your open network in 2016:

Establish a board of mentors – identify five or so people that have the experience and connections to advance specific aspects of your life, i.e. career management, relationships, technical skills, health & well-being, personal finances. Not only will these five people have more specific knowledge to share than just one mentor, their networks will be much farther reaching. This strategy is also less time consuming for each mentor increasing the likelihood that you’ll actually get to see them once or twice a year, which translates to five to ten mentor sessions for you annually.

Join a professional knowledge network – there are numerous industry and professional bodies, like ours at CEO Forum Group, well worth getting involved with. The benefits and investment vary greatly depending on the purpose of the networks, the criteria for membership, the business model behind the group, and your objectives. Best to be clear on all four topics before committing to any of them. To get a feel for the potential value of being involved in such a knowledge network please click here to view some testimonials from our members.

Add value to others – there are many ways to do this such as being a mentor to others, helping out colleagues or friends on a professional or personal project, getting involved with industry projects or community causes, starting a knowledge sharing blog or LinkedIn group etc. One thing I have found to be true over and over is that those with the most open networks are also those who are most gracious with their time. Without exception the most senior influencers I have met have also been the most generous sharers of knowledge and networks. They are avid builders of bridges between people, enabling all to be successful in today’s connection economy.

Rich Hirst is a Director of CEO Forum Group, providing a range of services specifically and exclusively for the most senior executives in the Australian operations of foreign-owned multinational corporations. We are grateful for his work, the example he lives and his friendship to many in our Forum community.

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