#327 Leadership insight: The importance of your professional network

28 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 are often narrow, restricted to a workplace(s), or to 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 grow, 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 our recent Emerging 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 to 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 the emerging leaders during our program, the professional network map provided some key insights and ‘ah-ha’ or ‘lightbulb’ moments for many – spotlighting those key people who they could talk to about advice and career aspirations, or ask to attend a meeting or talk. These are contacts who could be trusted confidants on difficult experiences and assist with practising some of the skills learnt in broaching difficult conversations and resolving conflict. 

There are many different types of relationships and connections we need in our work life. Start by mapping out what yours looks 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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