Make Connection a Priority in Your Career and Life
By Beth Benatti Kennedy

The following is an excerpt from Career ReCharge: Five Strategies to Boost Resilience and Beat Burnout.

Chapter Nine

Isolation is the dream killer.

—Barbara Sher

The fourth strategy of the Benatti Resiliency Model is connection. I define connection as the result of cultivating relationships. Why should you make connection a priority in your career and life?

George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who directed the Harvard Grant Study from 1972 to 2004, found strong relationships to be the strongest predictor of life and career satisfaction. Feeling connected to one’s work was far more important than making money or achieving traditional success. The conclusion of this study showed that connection is crucial and becomes even more important as life goes on. Another study found that when we relate to others and connect in a deep way, the brain releases the neurotransmitters oxytocin and dopamine. These feel-good chemicals are part of what makes it so rewarding to give and receive social support. My coaching clients notice that as they begin to make connection a priority, they feel more engaged in their careers because they are happier and have enhanced energy.

I learned about the value of connection from my dad, who ran his family’s moving business, Steinway Moving & Storage. When I was a little girl, I accompanied my dad on moving jobs. When he was moving a department for Pan American Airlines, I followed him around as he got everything ready for the big moving day. We arrived extra early and I made sure all his employees got their coffee and fresh rolls. The part I remember most vividly was that he knew everyone’s name. It did not matter if they were a vice president or an elevator operator—he called them by name and always had a positive comment to share. He had the gift of finding value in every person. Every time he would leave me by myself at a moving job, someone would come by and say, “Your dad is amazing!” Talk about leaving a legacy!

Connecting with friends from all stages of my childhood and adult life has always been a strength for me. My friend Marten, whom I met in a pub in Holland when I studied abroad during my junior year in college, attended my wedding several years later, as did Jenny, another friend from Sweden whom I met that year.

In my personal life, I nourished and grew friendships, but it was a different story in my professional life. I didn’t realize until after I hit burnout and left my first real career as a professional that I needed to learn how to focus on connection in my career as well. Even though I am a strong Extravert, I thought only top-level career professionals did “networking.” When I began my business as a career coach, though, I learned the importance of networking as a business strategy. It is not easy for most of us, and it takes hard work, but I’ve learned in the past twenty years that connecting with others is a key component for career resilience and success, whether you are self-employed or working in an organization.

Networking—The Ten-letter Word

When I bring up the subject of networking with my coaching clients, they often tell me how much they hate it, especially because it feels so fake and forced to many people. I am frequently asked, “Can’t I just focus on my job?” The answer is an assertive no, you cannot. We need the help of others in our careers, and the broader your network of support, the greater your influence and resilience. If “networking” leaves a bad taste in your mouth, change the word to “connecting.” Remember, connecting is about creating and nourishing trusting relationships.

One of the biggest mistakes unskilled connectors make is thinking that networking is a numbers game—how many business cards they can collect or how many social media connections they can make. But giving someone your business card or connecting with them online does not build trust immediately. Think about your career—you probably trust people only after you have been assured of their character and competence and have found common ground on which to connect.

To be a master connector, develop supportive relationships in the three major areas of your life: your organization, your profession/industry, and your personal life. One way to connect with your colleagues is to learn about the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Some of the questions you can explore with people in your organization include “What are the organizational norms?” “What are important trends?” and “What projects and initiatives are on the horizon?”

You also need to become competent in your specific career field and industry. A great connecting strategy is to take an active role in a professional association to stay up to date on the latest trends and to develop competencies that are outside your experience in your present position. Read professional journals and industry publications and stay current with what is going on in your industry in the news. Industry knowledge helps you prepare for the future and anticipate changes that could affect your career. Staying connected in your profession and industry helps you continually increase your expertise and influence.

Create an effective personal network by developing contacts in various areas such as education, fitness, family, and spirituality.


BETH BENATTI KENNEDY, MS, LMFT is the author of Career Recharge: Five Strategies to Boost Resilience and Beat Burnout. She brings more than twenty years of experience to her role as a leadership and executive coach, resiliency-training expert, and speaker. With an extensive background in career development, she coaches high-potential individuals on how to use their influence strategically, collaborate effectively, and focus on innovation.


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