I recently grew a beard for the first time since my freshman year in college. Back when I was 18, it was dark. This time it came in salt and pepper — okay, mainly salt. So I’m literally a graybeard. I’m sure you’ve heard the term. Someone experienced, seasoned, been around the block. It’s not all good getting old — just ask my achy knee, hip, or shoulder — but there are some benefits to being a graybeard.
By definition, it means you’ve been around for a while. Which also means — assuming you haven’t been a jerk — that you’ve built relationships. And there’s real value in those relationships and the network you’ve built.
First, there’s a great opportunity to leverage your network for business development purposes. Over the years, you’ve no doubt done this as you’ve built your own career and book of business. However, as an individual becomes more seasoned, there’s often an issue with time. When people are young and working on business development, they have time but no contacts. But when they’re experienced (my definition: the opposite of young), they have contacts, but because of other responsibilities they likely have no time for business development.
Smart organizations and people recognize this issue and come up with solutions. One example of this comes from a seminar speaker we had, Wayne Breitbarth, who talked about utilizing LinkedIn for this very purpose. It allows young coworkers to leverage the experience and network of their more senior counterparts.
Your network also has value beyond you and your company; the community at large can benefit as well. I’m the chair of this year’s American Heart Association Heart Walk. In accepting that responsibility, which comes with a lot of pressure to deliver, I was confident in getting the job done not because of what I could do directly, but because I knew I could rely on my network. So far I’ve assembled an awesome executive leadership team by utilizing that network. This group of experienced business folks will, in turn, tap into their networks as we work to secure sponsorships and walking teams. With the help of your own relationships and network, you can have real community impact.
So if you’re a graybeard like me, or an otherwise seasoned businessperson without the distinctive facial hair, think about the network you’ve built and how you’re leveraging it. You’ve probably naturally tapped into your network to support your own success, but are you helping others at work? Are you leveraging your contacts to benefit our community? And if you’re still building your network, you may benefit from cozying up to those senior executives and board members at your company. Besides having that cool gray hair, they may have powerful connections.