Who will help you get to where you want this year?

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…

10 Responses

  1. I am sufficiently intrigued that I just may test this idea out for myself.

    I was reading an cognitive scientist’s article about decision-making. The author contrasted the aspects of decisions we make which are conscious vs. the many additional one which are made “below the level of consciousness”.

    What Social Mapp diagramming allows is for conscious consideration of the relationships holistically, rather than individually or filtered according to emotion.


    • Hi Michael,
      That’s an interesting way of putting it, “conscious consideration of relationships holistically”, I am always at loss, when I have to exactly describe what happens when you draw a Net-Map. Someone once told me that by drawing (instead of e.g. looking at a picture or just writing), you engage both halves of the brain and maybe that gives me a hint to understand what happens when you draw your own personal Net-Map. Because it feels like both your rational and emotional side are switched on but they are actually strongly engaged with each other, emotions are not running wild but it is also not just a rational exercise of cold precision. I am curious to hear how you experiment goes. Would you like to write a guest post with a picture of the map and some of your experiences / insights? You could take the picture with a camera that is bad enough that we can’t read the names on the post-it’s but just see the general structure…
      Good luck

  2. Another great post, Eva. I am contemplating where my career goes as I approach the end of it (yikes!) Seems a visual approach would be useful to me to consider where I put my energies. My goal is more that of integration and consolidation, rather than career building per se, but I believe the same sort of approach would help me. I tend to think this way, anyway, but I believe I’ll build that map and keep it in my view for a while. A terrific blog; always food for thought.

    • Thanks Betty
      You will see that figuring out the right question will make all the difference to this. In your case it could be something like: “Who are the people who influence that I bring my career to a good close?” or “Who will influence my transition from full time employment to the next step?” or “Who will influence what my professional legacy will be?” or, if you have a pet project that you have always saved for the time after the end of your career: “Who will influence that I achieve XY?”
      Intuitively I would say the question about your transition from one phase in life to the next will be the most complex and thus maybe most interesting (but also most confusing). It would include people from your old life who influence what kind of closure or continued interaction you have with the professional sphere. And people from the next phase, who will welcome you in whatever you choose to be the next step. And you would get a better idea about who you would like to be with you for the whole trip. If you do it that way, then I would recommend you set up influence towers more than once, for example for “How strongly do they influence that I achieve my goals of career consolidation?” and “How strongly do they influence that I get to XY next step?” Because this is an exercise that is strongly related to your personal development and growth, it doesn’t harm if you take some time and take it in steps. I am just adding the influence towers 1 1/2 months after drawing the links and have the feeling that letting it rest a bit helped me get new insights.
      Would you consider telling us how this goes? I love having guest posts (maybe even with a picture). And as this is a new way of using Net-Map I would love to learn more about how it works for people. Good luck

  3. Eva – went back and re-read this post after our meeting yesterday. I am really excited to meet with you and do a map of my business. When you talked about looking for ways to talk about your work I thought of this organization – http://www.relationshipeconomics.net/index.html – it is run by a guy I went to high school with.

    • Thanks Andrea, I am also really looking forward to the mapping. It’s amazing how much I learn through these mappings as well… while guiding someone along this exploratory process. Having a look at your friends site, looks really interesting.

  4. […] where did we want to go again? (picture copyright: Brooklyn Museum)I have written a lot about how you can understand and use your networks to get what you want and where you want. But in my […]

  5. Hi Eva,
    I finally got to the blog post. I think taking things to a visual level is really important as 80% of people are visual. Thus while we know our networks, seeing them visually could help make more meaning of them, create reminders or help us see things we didn’t think about in our heads. Great idea! I may just have to try it out myself. Perhaps we can do an exchange where I ask you questions to take it further and you ask me as well. If you are keen – how about July as right now, trying to pack it all in (ahh the life of a consultant!).


    • Hi Michelle,
      Great idea, asking each other questions. Because I have found that, even though I know Net-Map well and am capable to guide my own mapping process, I helps so much to have a second person to have a conversation with. I tried talking to the wall instead but it just didn’t ask any insightful questions…

  6. How could you change your job to another field?…

    While it is kind of obvious that you will have to learn the content of the new field, it is less obvious and sometimes trickier that you will also have to change your networks. You can get some kind of formal training (or read up on what you need to kn…

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