Having a Mentor vs. Having a Developmental Network: Diversity is Key!

What do mentors give you?

Having a mentor leads to a wide range of career-related benefits, including greater career advancement, greater job satisfaction and more clarity around your professional identity. Research also suggests that mentors help you develop positive attitudes about your work and organization, promote positive interpersonal relationship, and enhance overall well-being and self-esteem.

But in today’s ever advancing world, it isn’t enough to just have one mentor who you rely on for all of your challenges and opportunities. With decreasing job security, organizational change and the rapid pace of technologically advancement in today’s workplace, it is critical that all individuals build and engage a true developmental network.

What is a Developmental Network?

A developmental network is more than just a group of individuals who provide you with professional support and guidance. To be effective, your network must also be diverse, including a balance of contacts inside and outside your organization, hierarchical level and demographic group. This may sound excessive, but it is not. How many times have we heard someone state an opinion as if it is fact? How many times have you seen people derail their career because they are unable to see issues in fresh and more neutral ways?  A diverse network enables you to address these challenges.

Diversity in your developmental network also allows you to use your network as a “port of entry” to social and organizational groups you don’t have direct access to. Sure, it is easier to engage with a new contact if you have been introduced by a mutual friend, but have you considered that without diversity in your network, you may not even know who and what resources are available to you? Diversity broadens your network in numerous ways.  It gives you access to more information as well as access to individuals with diverse skills sets, and both of these things give you power.

How do I build an Effective Developmental Network?

There are many ways one can go about building his or her developmental network. Step one is to honestly evaluate your current network, looking for diversity gaps. 

The next step is to build a development plan that is measurable and actionable. You must invest in relationships that have strategic value, identify and connect to relationship brokers, and minimize contact with those who demand too much of you. You must take advantage of programs, practices, and communities that allow you to access diverse others with shared interests. All of this takes planning, tools and time, which many of us don’t have enough of. But they are out there and I’m excited to share them with you.