In a recent interview, Issa Rae (blessings on her creative genius) talked about the importance of networking: not up, but across. In the journey that encompasses career development, there’s a ton of focus on sponsors and mentors to lift us up, but how are we following Issa’s advice and helping those who are in the trenches alongside us?
For anyone at any level, you can give back to your network by being a Fairy Godmother. You won’t be turning any pumpkins into carriages, but you can add sparkle to those you’re connected with. Perhaps you aren’t in a position to help anyone up or you haven’t gotten to the executive suite (yet), but you can waive your wand on someone’s career in the following ways:
Be a consistent referrer: As a recruiter, I get told “no thanks” quite a bit when I’m reaching out to pitch someone a potential opportunity. For candidates to accept my hook, the timing has to be just right. If you’re on the receiving end of a proposal and the timing isn’t right for you, it may be perfect for someone you know. Or it could be a stretch, but send it along anyway. If you find yourself turning down a project, potential role, or speaking engagement make sure you’re referring someone in your network who might be able to crush it. It could be the thing that opens up other opportunities for them.
Share: Are your connections writing their own blogs? Maybe they’ve got an awesome podcast. My homegirl has an amazing fashion blog. (Hey Sable, can I plug it here? No? ::shrug emoji:: ) Even the influencers who have +millions of followers started out with a loyal squad who hyped them up at every opportunity. Make sure you’re giving an extra boost by being a faithful sharer of content. It could be something as simple as reposting on the original platform it was published. Extra points if you lift the link and share it somewhere else. (Pro Tip: Sharing others content will make them more inclined to share yours too.)
Spread the good word: When someone you know is brought up in conversation, are you speaking up about their awesomeness? Even if it’s something simple, a genuine amplification of a connection’s talent in real life has a lasting impact. Use an anecdote about how they helped you out, or explain a particularly tricky problem they solved. You’ll be able to convey your enthusiasm through your facial expressions (if in-person), the words you choose, and your willingness to readily speak about someone positively. The impression this leaves is invaluable and can’t be underestimated.
Hire (or recommend): If you’re in a position to choose who you hire, use those powers for good! We sometimes shy away from hiring someone out of a need to be fair and balanced, but it’s totally ok to extend an offer to someone because you know they’re the perfect fit for your job. And if you have a relationship with the person who is hiring, don’t be afraid to put in a strong word in favor of that person you know is perfect. Yes, you should be objective, but you have discretion for a reason. If you can use your influence to get someone an opportunity, you absolutely should.
In the end, being a fairy godmother isn’t about turning your peasants into princesses; it’s about serving your network in a way that guarantees they get invited to the ball. Don’t be afraid to connect across, using your hard won reputation to sprinkle a little magic on someone’s career.