Recently, I heard from someone who was frustrated that, despite following all of the recommended career advancement strategies (networking, following up, working on her pitch), she was not moving forward. As an example, she referenced a few leads that had grown cold. What is the problem?
Now it could very well be that she is not networking, following up, or positioning herself as well as she says. But even if she is doing all of the steps right, and the quality of activity is there, a handful of leads not working out is not surprising. You also need quantity of activity in your job search and career plans.
Any one lead may not work out regardless of anything you do. There may be no promotion budget any longer. The management opportunity changes in a restructuring. Your company gets bought, and all of your allies and stakeholders get tossed when new management steps in.
Just like your financial investments should be diversified, so should your career investments.
Network inside and outside the company, at different levels, in different industries and functional areas. Follow up is not just about networking contacts but also about following up on different opportunities. Are you considering lateral moves, entrepreneurship (or employee status if you’re an entrepreneur), consulting v. in-house, nascent industries you may not know much about yet? When you position yourself, is it just to a small group of insiders who already know you? Are you blogging, speaking at conferences, getting quoted or publishing?
It is very easy to get swept up in the day-to-day of your job, especially in these times where resources are already stretched thin. But if you focus exclusively on quality of work and don’t expand your reach to a wide enough quantity of audience, you are leaving your career vulnerable. Get yourself out there and not just at the margins but with 100+ networking contacts. If you are in active job search mode, aim for 10+ target companies in play at any one time. If you are in career development mode, have several possibilities outside of your current company that you can move on at all times. Focus on quality, of course, but quantity also matters.