Career Networking and the 15 Roles that Should be in Your Social and Professional Network


To get ahead in life and work, access and use opportunities, you need both a network and to network. In this article, I explore various related concepts – career, networking, career networking, hidden job market, opportunities, social and professional network plus the 15 roles that need to be in yours and examples of what is found in the opportunities market. I close off with sign-posting how your social network and life roles also contribute to your career and personal development. The practice of career networking,  is an important workplace trend to note as this has become more critical in a quickly changing and highly competitive world of work and life.

 What is a Career?

At any given opportunity when I write or talk about careers, I like to start by reminding readers and listeners, that your career is the sum of all the different types of work you do, both paid and unpaid. It is made up of what you do at work, or a place of employment or your own business, voluntary or social contribution work, schooling as work, as well as work that you do in managing a household and nurturing a family. If the definition of your career includes life roles and work/job roles, how then do we define career networking?


What is Networking and Career Networking?

Networking is the process of making connections with a variety of people in your life and investing in those relationships in a mutually beneficial way. Career networking therefore involves developing and leveraging on connections and relationships in your Social and Professional Network (SPN) to achieve career goals. There are many benefits from networking. [READ:]

Social and Professional Network - 15 Key Roles Infographic
What is a Social and Professional Network (SPN)?

This is a mapping and pattern of connected mutually beneficial relationships and the linkages that coalesce around you, which you can leverage on for life and work goals. There are 15 roles that should be in your SPN, and those who study this, say you need to have 30 active relationships in your Network. The 15 roles are listed below:

Professional Network roles (12):
  1. Connector – a person with a lot of linkages with other people in your network
  1. Boundary Spanner – a person who links unconnected networks for your
  1. Peripheral Specialist – not really connected to others but brings specialised knowledge that others need.
  1. Expert Practitioner/s – these are experts in your sector or field of interest; they are usually organized into a Community of Practice or a Professional Association.
  1. Mentor – someone who has achieved what you want to achieve that you turn to
  1. Coach – a thinking and accountability partner accompanying you to achieve goals
  1. Advisor – someone you turn to for specific social or professional advice
  1. Sponsor – the person is a key decision-maker and sits at the decision-making table. He/She is the one who “carries your ideas and papers” into the room and pushes for your interests in an opportunity, position or resources.
  1. Promoter – this person is your champion in various spaces and to others. They market you, what you have and can do. They raise your profile and brand.
  1. Inspiration partner – a person you turn to for ideas and inspiration or creativity
  1. Accountability partner – someone whose role is purely to keep you on track
  1. Peer collaborator – this is someone you can count on for collaborative projects

Social Network roles (3): It is not about numbers here, but these people are very close to you and they play any of the above 12 roles. These are protection relationships.

  1. Friend/s
  1. Family
  1. Social group member/s


What is the Value of a Social and Professional Network in short-term Job Search and long-term Career Growth?

In the context of work, job search and professional advancement, the purpose of career networking is outlined below:

Career networking, or “professional” networking, involves using personal, professional, academic or familial contacts to assist with a job search, achieve career goals, or learn more about your field, or another field you’d like to work in. Networking can be a good way to hear about job opportunities or get an “in” at the company you’d like to work in. 


 The need can be short-term, to get a job or a consultancy or gig opportunity. The long-term outlook is encouraged as building a strong network of powerful ties and relationships that deliver takes a lot of time and effort, so you would rather build for the long-haul.

There’s a big difference between networking for a single job vs. networking for your career. Networking for a single job is designed to achieve a short-term goal and may or may not feed into your career goals long term. Career networking, however, involves establishing connections that can benefit you over the course of your career as you advance from job to job. With job networking, you’re thinking about the short-term—what income can you obtain to jettison you to the next job, or leg of your career, for instance. With career networking, you’re building a personal brand. [SOURCE:]


What is the Hidden Job Market?

In addition to the above, one of the realities of the business and professional world is the existence of the Hidden Job Market. A startling figure, I have come across for those seeking jobs or aiming for career progression in the company or organisation they are part of, is that only 25% of job opportunities are openly advertised and truly open to anyone. The other 75% are either never advertised, or they are advertised with other people in mind. If you invest in a mutually beneficial personal and professional network, you can get leads to tap into it. The Balance Careers article explains more what the Hidden Job Market is.


Networking and the job leads one gets or the connections made within your SPN help you to access the Hidden Job Market. Your Social and Professional Network can unlock opportunities for you. However, this is dependent on the quality of your network, the depth of relationships you have, whether your ties are weak or strong and your level of investment. In another blog, I will share more on “How to Map and Develop Your Social and Professional Network”. Be on the look-out for it 😊.


 What is the Value of a Social and Professional Network in Life/Social situations?

We should not only focus job opportunities, but a variety of other life opportunities that relate to the definition of career outlined in the introductory paragraph. For example, your Social and Professional Network can connect you with a voluntary Board role that will benefit the community, increase your sense of purpose, give you access to information, help you develop valuable skills, expand your connections and look good on your CV/resume. Your SPN is also invaluable in social bonds that are critical for human development and the sharing of life wisdom and support during life events. In an upcoming blog I will delve into the value of social relationships in one’s wellness. As they say, no woman or man was created to be an island, even though we try 😊.

The End!


Next Steps: 

Participate in the Take-a-Break and Learn Thursday Webinar on 9th May 2019 at 11AM – 12PM GMT on the issues shared in this blog. Login details – e-mail Ennie or check the links below.

Individuals: If you need support on how to utilise this career information for career planning, job search, career progression or CV/resume review, whether currently employed or not, get in touch using the e-mail address provided. Also share and follow this work 😊.

Ennie Fletcher Career Day blog pictureWritten by: Ennie Chipembere Chikwema, Career Coach and Learning Specialist


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Twitter: @EnnieChipembere

Date published: 06 May 2019

3 thoughts on “Career Networking and the 15 Roles that Should be in Your Social and Professional Network

  1. This is very interesting. Networking is something I have always had difficulties with. I like your list of professional network roles. It makes it much clearer for me how a professional network really should work.


  2. Quite an intriguing piece…..there is need to delve more into the mechanics of how one can create or make existing social networks useful or effective in influencing long term career paths. I have often found that there is need for extensive investment in social network relations. For a start you need time and commitment to be available for such social networking. Also in professional networking there is always that lack of a “personal touch” how can that be brought into such types of networking. For example a year ago I was in dire need of some technical guidance in developing a data collection tool to be administered for a project on people that had been internally displaced in a conflict situation. I turned to my professional network, and alas up to this day I am still waiting for a response……

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this Blog and the live facebook session. i remember sometime last year someone telling me that your career woth is the sum total of your networks…at that point i was not really clear what they meant and because it was an on-board chat, time to seek further clarity was strained. This blog has shedded more light though am still struggling with network members who have exceedingly overlapping roles as well as how i can fully strengthen certain individual members so that the our relationship best suits where i have placed them on my map.


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