I learned early on in my career that a mentor and sponsor was critical for my success. However, it wasn’t until recently that I understood and appreciated the power of a strong peer network, both inside and outside of your organization. I am so fortunate to work for an organization like EY, which actively seeks to advance women (see #WomenFastForward).
Over two years ago, I was asked to participate in Power. Presence. Purpose. (PPP), a leadership development program for women. During this program, I joined 28 other women in learning a number of tools to help us on our career journeys, such as conflict resolution, building trust and intentional networking. All of these tools are important; however, I realized the most powerful tool I have is the network of strong, brilliant and passionate women I met during class.
Developing Your Network
Developing a network of peers is more of a straightforward effort earlier in your career. As you progress, you begin to have your own teams and fewer peers working directly with you. It can feel as if you are alone, when in actuality there are many others working through the same issues, celebrating mini victories and contemplating the path forward – just like you.
I was fortunate to have a class that brought me together with women from fields outside of the health sector. However, there are many other ways to find camaraderie and build your network.
- Actively participate in affiliation networks – Many organizations have a professional women’s network. Actively participating in meetings and events is a great place to meet other like-minded individuals who are also seeking to expand their networks.
- Volunteer in the community – Explore volunteer opportunities in the community you are passionate about. While not everyone will be a perfect match for your professional network; you may be surprised.
- Ask for informational interviews – Identify peers you work with that you admire and ask them how they do it. Most everyone enjoys talking about themselves and you may be surprised to find out they secretly admire a skill you hadn’t yet recognized in yourself.
Strengthening Your Network
As the relationship matures, it allows each person to fully take advantage of the expanded network. Below are just a few ways my PPP sisters and I have continued to build and strengthen our relationships with one another.
- Get career advice – When you are facing a challenge, sometimes it is hard to know who you can trust. Having an outside perspective allows you to talk freely, knowing it won’t get leaked.
- Encourage each other – We all have our ups and downs. Having someone to cheer you on and remind you of all the tools you have in your belt is helpful to keep self-doubt at bay.
- Celebrate success – Career progression can sometimes feel like a zero-sum game, so you may be quiet about celebrating personal success. However, with an outside network of peers, they will celebrate with you and encourage you to take time to recognize your achievements.
- Get personal – Your career is only a portion of who you are. Opening up to all of who you are introduces vulnerability to the relationship and builds trust.
PPP was only the beginning for me in realizing how valuable a network of peers is. Since then, I’ve introduced others to my network and have reached out to others new to their role to let them know they aren’t alone. How will you choose to invest in your peer network?
The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.