Written by Sharan Hildebrand
WECAN Network Member | Technology Executive | Author | Board Member | Committed to Elevating Women in Technology Leadership Roles
In partnership with The WIT Network, Sharan recently launched her new book: Finish The Sentence – A Business Fable About Women Unlocking Their Power And Career Success! Sharan is graciously donating all proceeds from the first 30 days of her book launch to The WIT Network. The funds will solely be used to sponsor several candidates through their women’s leadership program.
Sharan Hildebrand is a 30-year corporate executive, speaker, and founder of Fearless Sisters, LLC. With a career built in technology, Sharan was motivated to form Fearless Sisters after observing the lack of female leadership in the industry.
Dedicated to elevating the next generation of female leader, Sharan loves to mentor and connect women with resources to advance their career journey.
Sharan is a board member of the Women’s Executive Channel Advisory Network (WECAN); The WIT Mission, and an advisory board member of Women in Cloud (WiC).
Porter Gale coined the phrase, “Your Network Is Your Net Worth” with the title of her book that decodes how to unlock the power of connections for wealth, success, and happiness. It’s a timeless phrase I find myself saying multiple times a week, as talk with colleagues, mentees and my 24-year-old son about the power of “who you know”. Regardless of where you are at in your career, your network is one of your most important assets that should be treated with the same love and attention as everything else you rely on for support, comfort, and growth. I’ve learned this late in life (along with most other things), as I now see how investing in relationships helped chart my course and put me on a path to career success.
So how did I invest?
Let’s be honest, I didn’t know what I didn’t know when I was starting out in my early twenties (although I was pretty dang sure I knew a lot). I would meet someone, evaluate what they could do for me and then move on. If they were pleasant and liked to drink beer, then I would maintain a longer relationship. I often thought about what I could gain from this human, and that shaped my definition of good network growth.
Times have changed (I drink bourbon now instead of beer). Time spent moving up the corporate ladder, through recessions and then a pandemic, force you to sit back and reflect. It’s now abundantly clear that the big moments of my career and really my life, were a result of a strong connection with someone who was in a position of influence and support. My first six figure job – 1st degree network connection! The evolution of my dream job – 2nd degree network connection! Landing my first non-profit board seat – 1st degree connection! Landing my first for-profit board seat – 2nd degree connection! Publishing and promoting my first book (shameless plug) – 1st, 2nd, and multiple 3rd degree connections! What I now preach is that for relationships to remain strong, trusted, and respected, a commitment to investing must be made.
Finish the Sentence
Regardless of where you are at in your career path, the women of Finish the Sentence have something to share with you. Embrace a powerful story about 6 women (yep, they are fictitious characters with great lessons to teach) that are at different stages of their careers and lives. Each woman has a game changing experience that helps her explore and uncover who she is and what she “wants to be when she grows up.”
Investing fundamentals are similar, regardless of where you’re investing. Let’s use an obvious example and talk about investing in our financial portfolios. Planning for a successful retirement and comfortable future, involves investing our time and resources into our portfolios. We review them regularly, monitor their progress (or pitfalls) and change things when necessary. You get what you give, and if you set your portfolio up and then allow it rest on a shelf, it most likely won’t perform well and provide you what you need when you need it. Your network is no different. The investments you make in developing, growing, and nurturing your network will not only provide great dividends but bring you more satisfaction and joy, as your relationships grow and your connections with the awesome people you have brought into your network deepen. A few portfolio best practices that are directly applicable to your network include:
- Regular review of your individual contacts– when was the last time you took a look at your Linkedin account and thought about some of the connections you’ve made over years. If you choose My Network then Connections; then click on: Search with filters, you’ll find an All Filters button at the top of the screen. Clicking on that button will pop up a window where you can filter by people by company, industry, service, keyword and more. Do a quick experiment and do some searching and see who pops up. When was the last time you said, “Hello, it’s been a while and I just wanted to see how you’re doing?” Another great way to re-connect is to provide valued piece of content. “I saw this article” or “I listened to this podcast and thought you – I hope you are well.” The outreach is a low-risk investment.
- Evaluation of the diversity of your network – if your network looks and sounds like you, they will be limited in how far they can help you move forward. Does your network consist of your friends and family? Are they all from the same industry? Does your network lack gender, ethnic and representation from other groups of people? Could be time to take inventory and do some updating.
- Consider your long-term goals – make sure that your network includes people that are currently where you aspire to be. Think about where you want to work next or the type of person you want to work for. Are there people that match this profile in your network? If not, see who is in your network that can help you uncover and connect with these folks.
These are just a few ideas around the “how” to manage healthy network growth. But what about the “why?” Well, to quote my friend Porter Gale again (well, she’s not a friend, but we are 1st degree connections on Linkedin!); …seeking out and working in collaboration with others who share your interests and values will provide a stronger foundation, enabling you to reach a higher level of success than you would on your own…your “net worth” will be based not on the size of your portfolio but on your ability to define and stay true to your passions and values and that working with other people who share them will allow you build a strong and enduring interpersonal safety net that will carry you through any financial calamity to greater output and personal fulfillment.”
Yeah – that last quote was a long read, but worth the investment.