The importance of your social capital in your career is a priceless asset to take very seriously. I graduated from college with a degree in the field of engineering. As a natural problem solver, I enjoy looking for creative solutions to increase productivity and efficiency in adverse situations. I began to discover after reaching a career crossroads that I was doing my job well but not building strong relationships as much as I should have. Growing up, I always heard study and work hard and you will advance in your career. This is true working hard to add value in everything that you do is very beneficial. However, there is also a strong need to work well in teams and form alliances to increase your most successful outcomes. I have done several workshops on career success and transitioning in different industries to youth and adult audiences and each conversation leads back to the importance of building social capital. Overall, as I have become better at relationship building I embrace who I am as an introvert but still find ways to succeed as a go-getter through finding my own voice.
Below are some lessons that I would like to share on the importance of building social capital and just how to become better at it:
1. Advocating for yourself while inspiring others
The title of one of my most popular presentations is “The Triple Y Effect: Your Story, Your Voice and Your Power.” I first presented this topic to a group of engineers sharing my personal struggles of learning the importance of having an advocate and advocating for yourself in your career.
I focus on the fact of being an introvert and knowing how to powerfully present yourself when it matters most. It is equally important to note that women in the field of engineering also struggle to find advocates to share their voices at tables of influence. Since first presenting this topic to engineers I now have presented it to several audiences including nonprofits, entrepreneurs and creatives. One thing in common is that everyone has a story to tell and wants to find their most powerful voice to do so. A topic that started out about advocating for myself is inspiring many others to do the same. The social capital you gain from teaching others how to advocate for themselves is a powerful connection point that naturally increases your circle of influence.
2. Working in a silo will only get you so far
A lot of your career planning time involves sharpening your skills and executing professional goals sometimes without recognizing the interpersonal skills for success. Once your career plan is in place, you spend countless hours and time figuring out how to execute a performance plan. However, in the midst of it all you must understand that going at it alone is exhausting and often times hindering you from higher levels of success. You can only get so far going at it alone and the sooner you realize this the more productive you can become. Helping others will help you become more successful by people wanting to do the same for you.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
3. Spark the conversation differently when meeting someone
Introductions at networking events can become dreadful if your focus is simply on asking several people what they do and thinking immediately how can it benefit you. Recently, I attended a Marketing Media and Money event with Networking CEO Patty Farmer. She shared great ways change the conversation when meeting someone.
Here are some of her recommendations for sparking a conversation differently when networking:
- Who do you serve?
- What would you want me to tell people about you?
- What’s your phrase that pays? What do you do differently then someone else in your industry?
- What is your favorite social media platform to connect?
The questions above allow you to discover a person’s story, passions and what makes him or her unique. This is a great way to build social capital by connecting without someone and understanding the why behind what the person does.
4. Listen to remember important things about other people
Social capital is all about listening to others first and being fully present in the moment. Listen to remember important aspects of the person’s life. This can be great future conversation starters. It can also help you remember ways to connect a person to someone else to insure further success.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Ernest Hemingway
5. Lead with value to become an influencer
There was a time when I wanted to connect with a particular influencer. I begin to engage with the person on social media. I would attend local events where the influencer was and thought I was getting closer to the person. However, lots of time passed by and I was no closer to deeply engaging with the person. I begin to focus on my own personal development becoming an influencer in program development and mastering effective communication strategies as a storyteller. Eventually, through the introduction of a mutual connection I begin to know the influencer more personally. Now through leading with my own value I receive invitations to events with lots of other influencers. I love the fact that actor Steve Martin says, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” If you take the time to lead with value, you eventually become an influencer and attract champions and advocates who help your career advance further.
6. It takes time to build social capital
It takes time to build social capital and trust. This is why networking with an immediate gratification expectation can lead to disappointment. Social capital needs to be mutually beneficial to work well. Social capital is about who you know, relationships and a network of contacts friends. If you are looking to find even more practical steps to use daily in making connections last, I recommend the book “Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last” by Froswa’ Booker-Drew. It is very insightful in providing action points to make solid and more mutual connections.
Marketing and branding yourself in today’s job market can be frustrating. Frustration can be due to trying to figure out how to stand out and what exactly should be on your resume. Social capital and relationship building can help open doors for you more than you ever imagined. The most important thing you must do is constantly and daily build your social capital before you need it. Overall, as an introvert and go-getter I step outside of my comfort zone to build stronger social capital even if it means meeting only a few people in a crowded room.
So now that you know the importance capital what will you do daily to maintain and strengthen it?