The opinion or voice of others can be extremely valuable. Whether advice is needed or just for confirmation that you are doing the right things. Often people will reach out to those they respect, seeking a mentor. It is also common for people to connect with those they believe are in a similar position as themselves in order to exchange ideas or for confirmation that they are doing the right things. However few people will seek those who are less progressed as themselves; in the position you were in 5, 10, 15 years ago. This is a lost opportunity.
The three tiers for networking
People who live the life you want to live. They have achieved a goal you want to achieve. They may have more knowledge and/or experience. You want them as your mentor.
People who are equal with you. They work at a similar level, they have similar challenges to you and you can work together to move forward. You can both teach each other valuable lessons.
People with less knowledge and/or experience than you. They share similar ambitions however they are less able to make them a reality. Usually younger (although not always), they may view you as a mentor.
In my experiences all three levels are important and can provide huge benefits to your progression.
How can they help me?
For the lower tier the usual response would be to ponder how they can help you. If they have less knowledge and experience, surely they can’t teach you anything. This may be true, perhaps they can’t teach you anything directly, however you may be surprised as to how much they can help you teach yourself. What do I mean? Well here are the main benefits I’ve had from connections with these people:
1 – Action
I have recently become friends with an entrepreneur from my old college. He has less academic knowledge and potentially less ‘business knowledge’ – I say it like that as what I viewed as business knowledge is sometimes not even considered by him – and yet he is moving forward at a fast pace.
For myself at the moment I feel a strong requirement to understand the business theory behind the actions I must take and to strategically think through all steps. That means one important thing is missed out, action. Finding this person re-opened my eyes to the value of action and the value of jumping straight in and learning as you go.
2 – Questions
What do you do with a mentor; ask questions. So what do you think will happen if someone views you as a mentor? They will ask you questions.
I love speaking to someone with less technical knowledge than myself about a piece of work because when they ask questions to learn more, it tests my own knowledge. Often I may not have an answer and that shows me where my weak spots are.
It is important to understand that when I talk about networking with people who have less knowledge or experience than you, I’m not saying that the stupidest person you know will help you find your answers. Find people who are a similar path to you, just a few stages behind. As long as they have ambition, they are worth the time it takes to get to know them!