#324 Leadership insight: Recognising the importance of your professional network

20 July 2021

In a highly specialised field such as medicine, the process of building a diverse professional network to support leadership development and career management often doesn’t receive much attention. Networks can easily become narrow, restricted to a workplace(s), or a chosen specialty field and typically, they are also often heavily weighted in medicine, with limited access to other industry sectors or professional fields.  

As careers advance, however, it is important to actively develop a robust and flexible professional network with a diverse range of connections you can engage with for advice, information and referrals, both within and outside of medicine. The social capital this network provides helps leadership development, career advancement and the fulfillment and meaning that comes with strong professional relationships based on a common sense of purpose and shared expertise and aspiration. 

In a recent Leaders Program, we asked participants to draw a map of their current professional networks. This challenged many - some had limited networks others more diverse – however, most concluded that there was significant work to be done in building their professional network and it was an area they had overlooked or undervalued.  

A network map is a picture which notes the significant relationships you have with individuals, teams and departments in a variety of organisations that you either currently belong to, engage with and feel are significant in shaping both who you are and how you work currently and into the future as your career develops. 

How is building a diverse professional network important for leadership and career development?

As we observed in our recent leadership development program, as well as in the coaching work we do with leaders, the professional network map can provide some key insights and ‘ah-ha’ or ‘lightbulb’ moments – spotlighting those key people who they can talk to about advice and career advancement, or alternatively highlighting a lack of relevant network contacts in areas they were keen to move towards or diversify their careers in. 

There are many different types of relationships and connections we need in our work life. Start by mapping out what yours look like, how you can use your network fully and where you might want to invest in building stronger connections. 

Dr Anna Clark PhD
Leadership consultant & coach

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