by Sandy Geroux, M.S.
I often speak about the difference between being “merely” indispensable and being truly invaluable in our organizations.
One of the best ways to become an invaluable asset is to tap into the full power of your network. Are you using your network properly? Do you consistently ask yourself who you could help, or who could help you with almost every facet of your job?
Let’s face it, we cannot do this challenging job alone! We are often asked to do things beyond our current knowledge and experience—and often beyond our immediate personal and professional resources. There is no option but to figure it out—quickly! But keeping in mind that there are others who have probably faced the same challenges in the past, and have developed tips, systems and resources to deal with them can help cut down our own learning curve in many situations.
The problem with our networks, though, is that we never know who is going to be the valuable contact we need at any given time in the future. The key is to think strategically about your network. Everywhere you go, keep your eyes open for someone to connect with and build a relationship with.
Developing relationships with people who will become our friends is all well and good. In fact, we need those relationships as we travel through life. We also need to strategically think of who we might help or might help us down the road. The bigger and more strategic your network is, the more likely it is that one of your contacts will be of help to you with a future challenge… and vice versa.
Consider the plight of one executive assistant’s leader who waited too long to decide he wanted to attend a conference at a popular resort on the Gulf Coast of Florida. By the time he asked his assistant to confirm his attendance and make his room reservations, of course the resort was sold out!
Luckily, she remembered two things at that time: First, that “sold out” at a resort rarely actually means completely sold out. And second, she recalled that just a couple of months prior, she had met the executive assistant to the CEO of the exact resort chain where the conference was being held! Nice coincidence, right?!
So, she picked up the phone and called her “new best friend” to ask if there was anything she could do to help. Lo and behold, there was! In fact, they were able to book her leader into a suite on the beach side of the resort, for a third of the price it would have cost for a regular room booked through the conference… simply because she used her network!
In another story, an executive assistant wanted to book personal reservations at a high-level resort. She went through the front desk and made her reservation, but instead of just leaving it at that – keeping in mind the opportunity this presented to build her network—she called the executive assistant to the resort’s general manager. She told her how much she enjoyed the resort and suggested that they meet while she was there—just to connect as colleagues. When she checked into the resort, she discovered that the other assistant had actually upgraded her to the Presidential Suite, where she spent a glorious week for cost of the regular room she had originally booked!
In one final example of the power of using our networks, an executive assistant recently relocated for a job that fell through once she had moved (ouch)! Several of us reached out to our networks to help her find leads and recruiters with whom she could connect. Within one minute of my sending emails to several of my contacts, a recruiter I know replied back to say, “I’m looking for an executive assistant. Have her call me!”
WOW! I had thought I would just ask my contacts to reach out to their contacts, but it turns out that he was actually looking for an assistant himself. Within 5 minutes, I had sent his information to my colleague and they connected by phone… so successfully that they set up a meeting for a couple of days later. (Fingers crossed on that working out for both of them!)
The point is that our networks can help us in many different ways, if we constantly scan the horizon for new connections in both professional and personal situations. Ask yourself: What can I do to nurture an existing relationship—or create a little surprise “WOW” for someone (like my friend who got upgraded to the Presidential Suite)? What can I do to make someone’s life or job a little easier… or to make them look like a hero in the eyes of their leaders?
We may not always be able to help everyone who asks (or vice versa), but it turns out that many of our personal and professional dreams can come true (or at least be helped along) simply by reaching out to our networks.
Catch Sandy and other spectacular speakers at IAAP Summit 2018 in Austin, Texas. Find out why IAAP Summit is the go-to conference for office and administrative professionals year-in and year-out. Hurry, early bird pricing ends in January.