People will help you realize your dreams—whether that's a plum assignment, a new job or a total career change—but you have to identify those potential partners.
Prospects, as author Ronna Lich-tenberg calls them, are everywhere. But to focus your time and energy on building the best relationships, think about forging mutually beneficial connections. Here's how to identify and cultivate those people:
Look for indirect connections. Some people who can play an important role in supporting your goals aren't obvious. They're "indirect prospects": people who can give you information, support you informally with a word to the right person or put you in touch with the key decision-maker.
Or, they are "soft prospects": people you respect and admire and who may be helpful later, although, at first, you don't know how.
Examine your history. To chart great connections for the future, look at the patterns in your past, Lichten-berg advises in Pitch Like a Girl (Harper Business), hitting bookstores this month.
Think about who hired you, how you met people who said "Yes" to helping you, what you had in common with good prospects and how you started a conversation with them.
Have you always worked better in certain types of organizations, such as a professional services firm, or with men rather than women? What defines the places where you had the best interviews, even if you weren't offered or didn't accept the job?
Use the patterns you identify from that list to consider whom your new prospects should be and the best ways to reach them.
Search near and far. Don't overlook the people within your organization (including your boss): people with whom you work or would like to work. Ask yourself, "Who does stuff that I would like to do?" When people do something you admire, tell them, and ask them to explain more about what they do.
Ensure a mutual benefit. After identifying people who might support you, ask yourself three critical questions:
1. "Why would this person support my vision?"
2. "What would this person have to give up to support me?"
3. "If I were this person, would I do it?"
"The best prospects care about what you're trying to do because the goal benefits them, too," Lichtenberg says. Your goal is to build a team with whom you can exchange value. And once you can identify what's in it for them, you can start planning exactly how to position your pitch
to each person for the two of you to work together.