What’s the # 1 Predictor of Career Success? A Special Network!

The best predictor of career success, according to multiple, peer reviewed studies, is being in an OPEN network instead of a closed one. In fact, one study shows that half of the predicted difference in career success (i.e., promotion, compensation, industry recognition) is due to this special type of network. (Forbes, by Michael Simmons)


A closed network exists when you talk to the same people all of time – your information and opportunities are limited.  An open network consists of a diverse group of individuals in different fields with different sources of information and different viewpoints.


The book Strategic Connections defines networking as the deliberate process of exchanging information, resources, support, and access in such a way as to create mutually beneficial relationship.

To translate this definition into action, embrace a mindset: Networking is about teaching and giving, not talking and taking. 

I encourage you to copy this mindset to a convenient place that reminds you on a daily basis that networking is about teaching and giving. With this mindset, you will be well on your way to making networking an art, not an accident.


  1. Teach each other who you are as a person and
  2. Learn as much as you can about each other

Look for opportunities to teach others who you are as a person.  What you are good at, your skills and experiences, what you like and don’t like, your passions, your personal goals, your career goals. This is crucial! The more you teach others about who you are and what is important in your life, the greater likelihood that your networking partner may be able to give back to you in some way.

Just as important, the more you learn about them — what they are good at, their skills and experiences, what they like and don’t like, what their passions are, their personal and career goals — the greater the likelihood that you can give back to your networking partner and help them in some way.

The quality of those conversations determines whether a first conversation will lead to future conversations and a mutually beneficial relationship.  Unfortunately for many people, networking is uncomfortable, difficult and a waste of time.  Attempts to establish an OPEN network are a waste of time if you do not know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it when networking opportunities arise. 

The good news is that you can easily learn and improve these skills and behaviors needed to build a broad, open network.  To build an open network, start with the mindset: networking conversations are about teaching and giving.


How often have you asked someone the “What do you do” question? 

Many people answer with their title, industry, or profession.  They just missed an opportunity to teach you something about who they are and what they are good at. 

Can you imagine if someone answered your “What do you do?” question not with their title, but said, “I help teams that are falling apart.  I just led a retreat for a team of 10 people – they were so glad to discover that people from 4 generations really CAN work together!” Can you imagine how different your conversation would be? 

At Contacts Count, we call this a BEST/TEST answerIt is a simple two sentence response.  First, tell something you are BEST at – a skill, talent, a passion.  Second, provide a TESTimonial – an example of a time you saved the day, solved the problem, or served the client.

HOMEWORK: Draft your own BEST/TEST answer using this worksheet. I’d be glad to provide you with feedback, so feel free to send me your BEST/TEST answers for review at vern@contactscount.com.

Watch a quick video about the “teaching and giving” model of networking in action.

Vern Schellenger (P’02), Principal Consultant, Contacts Count

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