The importance of finding strong mentors, leaders in your field who have both the professional and personal experience to advise you in your career, has been a hot button topic for some time. However, Cindy Pace, the current Director of Change Management & Strategy Integration at Pfizer and the future AVP of Diversity & Inclusion at MetLife, views mentors as just one part of the puzzle. She sat down with Levo League during Office Hours to share the importance of building a strong network among your colleagues.
Pace emphasized the important role networks can have in your development as a leader and your development as an influencer. She thinks of her network as five concentric circles, or the Fab Five, made up of true friends, mentors, advisors, sponsors, and colleagues. Each circle adds value to your professional life in may ways, but Pace argues that the people who know you best as a professional are the people who work alongside you every day, your colleagues.
Co-workers can become your allies and act as advocates on your behalf. Developing strong connections with your current colleagues can lead to a strong professional network in the future.
Connecting with your co-workers does not necessarily mean getting into their personal business by sharing drinking stories or personal dramas. Pace advocates what she describes as a “pleasant distance” until you have ascertained the relationship. Your colleagues are people that you work with, not your best friends, and they are also your competition. Be cognizant of this and show discretion in the type of information you give out and the relationships you try to build.
It is also important to respect everyone that you work with, regardless of your personal feelings towards them. Find something about them that is unique and special that they bring to the table, and by no means should you burn bridges. The fact that you personally don’t like someone does not mean that you won’t have to work with him or her. In fact, that person could one day become your manager.
Get to know the essence
Take the time to get to know what motivates your co-workers, what they enjoy doing, and what kind of projects they engage well in and can become an integral part of. By identifying the strengths each of your co-workers posses, you will be better able to leverage your network in the future and possibly act as a connector or maven.
Pace recounted instances in her career in which her co-workers acted as advocates on her behalf and connected her with job opportunities that she would not have otherwise aware of. Her network of colleagues, who she refers to as her allies, identified her strengths and matched them to specific career opportunities for which they thought she would be a good fit. They also acted as connectors by making personal introductions.
Be a team player
A connector does not mind building relationships and making connections for others. It’s a reciprocal process and by providing others with the opportunity and information they need to get ahead, you have set in motion the law of reciprocity. Although it might not come back from the same person you gave it to, it will come back to you. By acting as an advocate on behalf of a co-worker, you set yourself up as a team player and show comradery and a willingness to help. “[Potential sponsors] are watching you and they want to support people who support others,” Pace explained.
Pace also discussed coping with failure and explained that she is herself recovering from fear of failure. “I wasn’t moving,” she said. “If it wasn’t the way I wanted it to be, I wouldn’t act on things.” She now endeavors to maintain an “I can come back” mindset—look at failure as information and consistently ask for feedback from which she can learn.
As she transitions into her new role with MetLife, Pace discussed how she has set out goals and steps for success in her new position. She has also identified success strategies for herself as a woman of color, or a self-described double-outsider, by being a high performer, having confidence in the face of fear, building confidence through wins, leveraging her network, and controlling her exposure.
Above all, Pace wants to impart the power of authenticity. “Don’t over edit yourself,” she said. “Sometimes we think we have to be something else to be accepted in certain environments.”
Watch the Office Hours with Cindy Pace below:
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