Welcome in a new year, a whole beautiful new year that you can use to get closer to your dreams. The first week of the year is a great time to sit down and think strategically about how to get where you want to get. And to figure out, where that is in the first place.
I was a bit early so I drew my strategic career Net-Map at the end of last year. It was really powerful, helped me reconnect with my goals, get a greater perspective on my support network and figure out a lot of concrete steps that I want to take to connect or reconnect with specific individuals. Here is what I did:
My overall Net-Map question: Who helps my business to succeed (present, past, future)?
I wrote all their names on post-its that were color coded according to whether it was a present, past or future collaboration. If it was more than one I overlapped two different colors. This was especially interesting when it helped me figure out which of my past contacts I strongly hoped to work with again, which ones (few but also important) I would definitely avoid and which ones were so-so…
I put myself at the center of the map and roughly sorted the actors (all names of individuals) so that those who are connected with each other were close to each other. I drew circles around the actors to indicate organizational affiliation.
Then I drew links in different colors for “project collaboration” and “inspiration, exchange of ideas”, to give the whole thing a general structure. Because this was all about planning for the future, I added one more specific link: “Planned future interaction”: Next to these lines I drew I wrote a note what exactly the next step would be, e.g. “ask if she wants to write XY paper with me” or “tell him of new use of Net-Map in the corporate world” or even just “send Christmas email”…
The last step is still outstanding, add red and white influence towers to indicate how strongly these actors influence my business success positively or negatively. I could even imagine that it makes sense to set these towers up three times to figure out how important these actors were in the past, are at present and might be in the future.
The process was intense and exhausting. I just recently talked with a friend looking for a job who told me: “No, I don’t think such an exercise would help me, I know my network pretty well.” And I thought to myself how amazing it is that even though I eat and drink and breathe networks every day and think about my own network connections a lot, seeing them all in front of me at the same time was an incredible eye opener to me.
I think one general lesson that I learned is that our present networks are strongly determined by our past connections (unless you are really burning bridges). They provide security and support but can also hold you back in your future development. If you want to change what you are doing or how you are doing it, you might need to take active and even radical steps to develop your networks towards where you want to go. That doesn’t mean cutting off the good connections of the past. But being aware of the need for new links, conciously going to where these people are and saying: “I am here! Do you want to play?”
One last observation: This process would have been even more powerful, if I hadn’d done it just mumbling to myself but actually being interviewed by someone who would have asked me all the tough questions…