While giving thanks this holiday season, don’t forget all the things to be grateful for in your career, especially the people who enable your career to flourish. People hire people. People decide who to retain, promote and advance. Even if you’re self-employed, your clients hire you, and you benefit from word-of-mouth and other people-powered promotion.
Here are 10 people to be thankful for in your career:
1 – Role models to inspire you
You need role models at every career stage. At the very least, seeing other careers gives you ideas for your own – if you know you want to be Head of Marketing someday, look up profiles of Chief Marketing Officers and other senior marketing executives and see the roles they’ve held along the way. More importantly, you get inspiration for what could be. Almost 30 years into my own career, I find new role models regularly. I’m looking to increase my international travel and work 100% remotely and recently read about an expat to France hosting bespoke wine-tasting parties out of her home! I’m grateful for each and every role model in my life – even if I’m just reading about them.
2 – Cheerleaders to encourage you
When you’re looking to make a change or put yourself up for a stretch role, you need encouragement. If you have an upcoming presentation or job interview, you want to have someone who can give you that pep talk or confidence boost the night before. It’s easy to take the cheerleaders in your life for granted because they’re often in a good mood and seem perfectly able to take care of themselves. However, use the holiday to return the favor and make their day with a thank you for [insert personalized story of how they boosted your spirits].
3 – Truth-tellers to stretch you
The phrase, “Feedback is a gift,” exists for a reason. There is incredible value in honest, helpful feedback. However, it is difficult to say something that could be taken negatively in a constructive way, so too many people, even managers, avoid giving feedback. If you have people around you who take the hard path and give it to you straight, thank them. Hearing a difficult truth can stretch you to improve or help you avoid a costly mistake. I once had a client who was very resistant to my feedback so, while she improved on the job and the company who brought me in was satisfied, I thought the coaching was only partly successful because the person I actually coached didn’t seem satisfied. However, several years after the assignment ended, she got back in touch with me to tell me how she had an a-ha moment with what I had tried to tell her before. She applied my earlier feedback to her next job and continues to incorporate the things we had worked on years ago. I was surprised, but very moved and so happy she got back in touch.
4 – Mentors to advise you
Like role models, you need mentors at every stage of your career. As your needs are numerous and vary over time, your mentors should be numerous and change over time. You can get some advice from business and professional development books (here are my favorites from 2019), but live, customized advice is ideal. For anyone who has given you advice this year, send them a note of thanks and tell them what you did with their suggestions.
5 – Insiders to inform you
Valuable career support can be as simple as a well-timed piece of information. You’re looking for a job and need to know who does what at a company you’re targeting. You’re pitching a project and need to know what the decision-makers at the sales meeting will be like. You’re considering a lateral move to another department and want to know more about your prospective new boos. To get that much-needed information, you probably leaned on friends and colleagues for help. Thank them!
6 – Connectors to introduce you
Some friends and colleagues are in a position to go a further step and introduce you to the company you’re targeting or the manager at the department you want to move into. If you’re lucky enough to have people who made those connections for you, thank them.
7 – Supporters to recommend you
An even further step than an introduction or information is a recommendation. Perhaps a former colleague started an email thread, introducing you to someone at your dream company with a nice testimonial about your work together. Perhaps a current colleague organized a group lunch with you and the manager of the department you want to transfer to, and your colleague casually brings up how valuable you are to the team. Even if things didn’t work out, even if you thank them at the time, acknowledge them again.
8 – Sponsors to go to bat for you
If that colleague who introduces you and recommends you is a senior executive, that support could catapult your career to a new level. As a senior executive, their support of you is a reflection of them and therefore an investment in you. That going to bat for you and putting their credibility on the line is sponsorship, and it’s significant. The best way to thank them is by doing an excellent job and exceeding their high standards.
9 – Accountability partners to keep you on track
You don’t need to have made a big move (e.g., new job, new promotion) to have needed career support. Managing your ongoing career also requires effort, and you may have benefited from that friend who reminds you about the monthly professional association meeting or Lunch & Learn on a useful topic. You might have a formal accountability arrangement where you call each other regularly to report on what each of you is working on. Or you might just call when you need that someone to get you productive again. That motivated and motivating friend is a special career advantage – thank them!
10 – Recruiters to mark you to market
Hopefully you have recruiters calling you with interesting opportunities, or you have existing relationships where you can call to get the latest information about your market. Staying on top of your market is critical. You should know what roles are in demand and what companies are paying for your level of skills and experience. Sure, you can also research job postings, salary sites and trade newsletters to understand your market, but if you have recruiters in your market that you can tap, be grateful for the nuanced and insider information they have.
Use this list to design next year’s networking priorities
Do you have people in your active network that you could tap for each of these roles? If not, consider spending your networking time to fill in any gaps. As you think about what lunch, coffee and LinkedIn invitations to accept, remember that you need a diverse and supportive network based on your specific career goals. Be grateful for the people already in your life. Think about who you still need to meet!