Realize your vision by testing who influences your decisions
3 min read

Realize your vision by testing who influences your decisions

Mentor networks are a special way of looking at how your interactions impact your professional self. Networks are always around us. We go in and out of communities, interacting with its members. Every community has its special flavor. Something that this community is known for.
Realize your vision by testing who influences your decisions

I am of the firm opinion that everything is related to everything else. We are part of a networked world, and thinking that you can get stuff done alone is ignoring your environment and setting you up for failure. I know this is worded strongly, especially if you look at the people around you and think nobody can help you.

If this is you, you are wrong. You have to look again. There is one scientific presentation that made a lasting impact on me. Six years later, I still know the outcome: Seeing the resources, you have in your network, called your social capital, is a matter of mindset. Instead of looking at the absolute goal (e.g., I need someone who can invest € 1,000,000 in my idea), make it relative (e. g., I need someone who can invest some money in my idea). In this way, you'll find people with whom you can share your journey for a while instead of bringing you to the finish line.

For example, let's assume you want to start a company, but everyone around you has a nice stable job as a civil servant. That was my situation. Where do you get your motivation from? Or validation of your career choice? Who will be able to help you think about business decisions? It might not be your direct family, but it could be the parents of your friends or the guy who opened the new coffee shop. Or that weird looking lady at work who actually has a side business once you get over her looks and start talking with her. She was actually not weird-looking. I'm just not into fashion, and she really is into it and design and things that look pretty.

How to create a map of your social capital

Drawing your mentor network is a good exercise to think about your environment and how the people in it can help you achieve your goals.

Mentor networks are a special way of looking at how your interactions impact your professional self. Networks are always around us. We go in and out of communities, interacting with its members. Every community has its special flavor. Something that this community is known for.

Drawing your mentor network is a simple pen and paper tool to reflect on who you interact with. I've done the exercise with experienced freelancers and business owners and with young founders. They all come back with the same feedback: Thinking about who you talk to is more difficult than expected but gives them great value in shaping their future.

In the end, you have a picture like below. You are in the center. Each dot is a source of advice or influence. The lines between the black dots show you who of your influencers is talking to whom. That gives you ideas about your echo chamber's degree and how much access you have to unique advice and information.

Example of a social capital

You end up having a better idea who gives you advice and through this who influences you. It's black and white. Like all these types of 'sit and think' exercises, it is not just doing them once, but keep on going back to them and doing them again and again. You change, your goals change, some people remain in your life, others you lose contact with. Re-asses your network yearly.

Watch a quick run-through of the exercise I did for the workfrom.co community.

Download the workbook and draw your own mentor network.