Increase The Value Of Your Professional Network By Befriending These Five Archetypes

Your professional network is incredibly valuable in order to get ahead. With a strong professional net work, you will have more professional and personal opportunities. More people will root for you and want to support you. This posts shares how you can increase the value of your professional network.

For 10 years I acted as a mentor to incoming analysts or associates at one of the two investment banks I worked for.

Being a mentor was rewarding and a way to help younger folks navigate the often terrifying waters of a cutthroat work environment.

Increase The Value Of Your Professional Network By Befriending These Five Archetypes

One of the main pieces of advice I gave was this: You should spend as much time selling yourself internally as you do externally. 50/50.

What I noticed during my career was that those who zoomed up the corporate ladder always seemed to have the strongest networks, regardless of whether or not they were the best producer.

The majority of people hate to network. They believe hard work is enough to get ahead. Unfortunately, from a career and financial perspective, networking is vital if you want to outperform.

There is no true meritocracy.

The Rise Of A Professional Network

At its core, a network's fundamental reason for being is for survival purposes. When you have a group of people fighting for you, it's much easier to avoid getting eaten by lions.

When I started Financial Samurai in 2009, nobody gave me the time of day even after a year of operation. A lack of recognition is why so many blogs or online businesses shut down within a year, despite the low operating costs.

Therefore, I started my own blogging network to help me and other nascent bloggers grow. We promoted each other's sites over social media, allowed for each other to guest post, helped each other with technical issues, and shared advertising contacts.

At its peak, the network grew to 120 bloggers strong. To pay for my time and the operating expenses of running the network, the network took a 10% cut of all the advertising campaigns mostly I and sometimes other members created. It was a promising business model based on honesty.

The Fall Of The Professional Network

The network was going great until one member decided to take the advertising contacts we had accumulated and started her own business creating blog campaigns. Then another member started doing the same.

Because of greed and selfishness, instead of having one strong network, we now had rival factions. Contract prices fell and chaos ensued. No longer was the network mainly about supporting the growth of each other's sites.

The network created money monsters. I guess I can't blame the two members who took my idea and created their own mirror image business because they only made about $36,000 a year from their day jobs. To them, they only saw dollar signs dancing around their heads.

Their intense focus on money and lack of loyalty disappointed me greatly. Consequently, I changed gears and decided to spend less time networking and more time writing on Financial Samurai.

In retrospect, I'm thankful with how things turned out because running the network began feeling like I was working a day job again. Financial Samurai now makes a decent amount of online income.

Where Are These Bloggers Now?

In case you're wondering, neither of the two bloggers who took my idea is still around today. They are back to the grind. When you focus on making money first and providing value second, you tend to lose more often than you win.

What people may not know is that I still do an occassional “side hustle” of putting together blog campaigns for financial clients just like in the good old days. I just do so privately to keep things simple. Never stop side hustling! The opportunities are endless.

As for my network's original intention of helping other bloggers grow, I've established The Financial Samurai Underdog Tour where anybody with an underdog story can sign up and tap my platform for exposure. The FS Forum is my new way to keep the camaraderie alive for personal finance enthusiasts.

Build These Five Relationships

It's always good to network up and down. Those who've been around longer have more connections. Those with more connections tend to have more money and power and so forth.

Having 1,000 LinkedIn connections who won't give you the time of day isn't very helpful. Neither is having 10,000 Facebook friends who won't show up to your birthday party.

Once you've built a network that won't let you drown, it's time to focus on building a network that will help you thrive.

Below are five types of people you should bring into your professional network. They will make you richer and happier.

1) The Life Giver

By far the strongest person to have in your professional network is someone who can give you or your children a job. In order to wield such power, the person must either be a C-level executive, a celebrity, or be the majority shareholder of a business.

Given growing anti-nepotism rules, more companies public and private, are not allowed to hire relatives. But that doesn't forbid people in power to refer their friends and their friend's children and push them through the system.

The most powerful Life Giver is the person or family who owns a large privately owned business. They can hire and promote whomever they choose at whatever salary they like. The most powerful family with a private business that comes to mind is the Mars family. They are the makers of M&M candies and are worth over $60 billion. True Stealth Wealth.

Then there are much smaller private companies owned by an individual or partnership that is quite powerful as well. For example, if you own a private online business that generates $1 million in revenue and $500,000 in operating profits, you could easily hire a handful of relatives for $50,000 – $100,000 each.

Your goal is to get to know at least one Life Giver. Once you do, the worst case scenario is that you'll always be taken care of.

2) The Golden Retriever

Increase The Value Of Your Professional Network By Befriending These Five Archetypes

It's sometimes hard to meet C-level executives, celebrities, or private business owners. They tend to wall themselves off because so many people are always asking them for something.

The next best thing is to build a relationship with a Golden Retriever.

A Golden Retriever is someone who makes him or herself extremely useful to a Life Giver. Due to their usefulness, they have joined the inner circle and become one of the Life Giver's most trusted confidants.

A Golden Retriever could be the executive assistant to the CEO who control's her schedule. A Golden Retriever could also be the sidekick, like Turtle or Johnny Drama in Entourage who invite whomever they want to Vincent Chase's parties and movie premiers. The most powerful Golden Retriever is the Life Giver's spouse.

A Golden Retriever will help you get in the door, but he or she can't make the final decision. Only the Life Giver can. It will be up to you to impress sufficiently the Life Giver in order to get the job, land the funding, or get invited to fabulous boondoggles.

Your goal is to get to know at least two Golden Retrievers. Once you do, you'll always have opportunities to grow.

3) The Educator

If you have children, there's nothing more important than your children. Parents often view education as the key investment they can make. As a result, some parents go to great lengths to ensure their children gain entrance into the best schools.

Although money can buy admission, you need a lot of money to legally buy your children's way into the best private grade schools and private universities. Legal bribery is in the millions, not in the hundreds of thousands.

The best way to improve your child's chance of getting into a great school without running the risk of a fine and jail time is to know Educators. Educators are the teachers, coaches, athletic directors, admission officers, school heads, and board members of schools.

If you can procure a letter of recommendation or a good word from an Educator, you drastically improve your child's odds of getting into a particular school, especially at the lower school levels. Every recommendation counts.

Unlike public grade schools which must accept everyone, private schools can pick and choose the families they would like to join their fraternity. The more the very people who run the school can provide a good recommendation, the better your child's chances. You can read more about public versus private school here.

Ever since I became an assistant tennis coach at a particular high school, I've noticed several people at my tennis club are much nicer to me. They know that even if I, as a lowly assistant coach, can't help them get their child in, they must at least be pleasant to me out of fear I might say something bad about their family. Getting blackballed is a real thing.

Whether you have children or not, your goal is to know at least three Educators. Once you do, you'll at the very least diversify your network so that it's not all just rich and powerful people.

4) The Healer

Health is greater than wealth. Therefore, it behooves you to get to know as many health professionals as possible who you can ask for help.

Imagine if you had friends who are cardiologists, radiologists, optometrists, ophthalmologists, psychiatrists, orthopedic surgeons, podiatrists, ear, nose & throat doctors, nutritionists, physical therapists, gynecologists, nurses, pediatricians, and physical trainers. You could ask them anything and everything.

After getting an MRI on my knee 10 years ago, my radiologist friend whom I've known since 9th grade told me to send over the file so he could give me his opinion. His evaluation provided me tremendous peace of mind to not pursue arthroscopic surgery to fix a meniscus tear.

With the soaring cost of healthcare and the dwindling time we get with healthcare providers, it's good to know as many Healers as possible.

Your mission is to get to know at least four Healers who specialize in different areas of health. Ideally, you are able to befriend a general practitioner, a physical therapist, and a psychiatrist.

5) The Unfiltered Genius

Life is easier if you are extremely smart. You can process information more quickly and make better decisions. Smart people also have the ability to better foresee opportunity where most cannot, which can make them extraordinarily wealthy. Unfortunately, not all of us are intellectually gifted, including myself.

The next best thing to being a genius is to befriend someone who is an Unfiltered Genius. The Unfiltered Genius is your sounding board for all of your life's big decisions: joining a new company, getting married, buying a house, starting a business, negotiating a severance, and more. He or she will tell it like it is without being afraid of hurting your feelings.

We all have blind spots that lead us to walk off cliffs. The Unfiltered Genius will analyze every issue thoroughly and help you make better decisions in your life.

Everyone needs to know at least a couple Unfiltered Geniuses. If you don't have one as your friend, it is worth it to hire one. If you can't afford to hire one, then seek to read, watch, or listen to Unfiltered Geniuses over the internet who are experts in their field.

The easiest way to avoid saying, “If I knew then what I know now,” is to speak to an Unfiltered Genius who has been there before. At the very least, seek advice from your parents.

Not All Relationships Are Created Equal

Quality matters over quantity when it comes to building a valuable personal and professional network. The rich and powerful are getting more rich and powerful. At the same time, technology is enabling us to become more independent.

Go through your existing relationships and see if you can categorize each relationship into one of the five archetypes above. Then, systemically cull the relationships who aren't real, never reach out, provide no value, or who only take and never give.

You need to proactively cultivate these five archetypes over time. Asking for help out of the blue is a great way to strain a relationship. Always focus on giving first.

If you are unable to befriend one of these five archetypes, then it's up to you to become one. Once you do, you'll find yourself naturally getting included into more powerful networks over time.

Recommendation For Leaving A Job

If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I recommend negotiating a severance instead of quitting. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training.

When you get laid off, you're also eligible for unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.

Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance.

I first published the book in 2012 and have recently expanded it to over 200 pages with new resources, strategies, and additional case studies thanks to tremendous reader feedback.

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Suggestions For Business

Start your own website. Every business needs their own website. Here's a step-by-step tutorial showing you how. Not a day goes by where I'm not thankful for starting Financial Samurai in 2009.

I ever would have imagined being able to engineer my layoff from a well-paying job in 2012 to just write and be absolutely free. You just never know what might happen if you try. Back when I started, I had to hire someone for $1,500 to launch FS. Now you can launch in under 30 minutes for less than $50.

For further suggestions on saving money and growing wealth, check out my Top Financial Products page.

In addition, if you enjoyed this article and want to get more personal finance insights and tips, please sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. You’ll get access to exclusive content only available to subscribers.

About The Author

21 thoughts on “Increase The Value Of Your Professional Network By Befriending These Five Archetypes”

  1. Great advice on networking Sam! It is a crucial aspect of your career if you want to move up in your field of work. Having to know people that could be a great referral, have them be a link to other people you want to meet and just be reliable professionally is something we all should have. We all have some type of talent that many companies can use but building a network that is reliable will put you over the top.

  2. I need to go through my Linkedin list of associates to see who brings joy, like Marie Kondo does with clothes and items. I already know I have a lot of recruiters, but I’m not sure how much value they add. Your circle says a lot about you as a person and it’s important to curate and cultivate that.

  3. Interesting list Sam! Do you think having FS (and blogging in general) helps you expand your network and introduce you to archetypes you otherwise wouldn’t have met in real life? I like your sentence about becoming one of the archetypes. Not implying that’s why you became a tennis coach :) Right now my best hope is perhaps becoming a Golden Retriever (or is that the case for most of us?) because I’m far from being a senior exec or a genius and don’t have the background to be an educator or healer.

    1. Absolutely. If I wanted to aggressively expand my network, I could meet with new readers probably every day for the rest of the year. But I’m pretty tapped out right now with the site and with being a dad. A website of your own can definitely help you build a network, survive, and thrive.

  4. “Asking for help out of the blue is a great way to strain a relationship. Always focus on giving first.”

    Absolutely. That is the hard part about networking. You need to give value first. Don’t start networking when you need a job. Do it when you have a job and try to help others when they need help. Be sincere. Give and you shall receive…in time.

  5. Since I’m a physician, my network has quite a few healers. It’s useful to know some attorneys too. I have several in my network since my wife is one. LOL

  6. Really appreciate this post and what you do through The Financial Samurai Underdog Tour. I’ve not (yet) participated in this wonderful thing you are doing to give back! It’s so important to never forget where you come from and what you can do for others on their way.

    I can definitely relate to the fact that blogging is hard. Especially since English is my second language. But I keep looking 1 year ahead and the potential that blogging gives me. First and foremost I want to help others succeed financially, but there’s nothing bad at using blogging as a side-hustle to reach financial freedom asap!

    P.S. just let me know when you are in Amsterdam, the least I can do to give back is to show you around ;)
    Thanks so much and you and your blog is a great inspiration! All the best from The Netherlands.

    Financial Chipmunk

    1. I really love Amsterdam. It’s like the SF of Europe. My favorite European city!

      I’ll take you up on your offer if I ever return with my family. It’s one of the cities I’ve been thinking about relocating to the most.

  7. FS, great list. For me, the biggest trick to remember is to “add value” in any networking (or other) relationship. Protecting the network on the back-end is key, too. Can you think of anyone that you recommended for a position, or set up on a blind-date, that behaved poorly (thus reflecting poorly on you)? When somebody makes an ask of me, I make them answer this question: “can you be trusted to act right?” Just them answering the question (they all say ‘yes) commits them to not quit with no notice, or treat a woman poorly.

    Really like your point about the LinkedIn and Facebook ‘connections’. So many feel if they have an e-mail/phone and a first-and-last name, then they are ‘part of the network’ and are then surprised when they don’t get a phone call returned or a hook-up.

    Lastly, regarding the members at your very upscale club and how they are ‘nicer.’ FS, may I suggest that their primary motivation may not be that you might badmouth them (you aren’t the type to backstab, you never back down and are a front-stabber!:-)) It is that your status as Assistant Coach is metric of your skill/knowledge, and is valuable like your 5.0 USTA rating. These other members appreciate being able to say “I played with Sam, he’s a coach at…” It validates them to know you in the context of a tennis club, and the game.

    1. Yes! Front stabber! I like it! It’s true. I like to battle instead of retreat whenever being attacked. I somehow always find mental or physical fighting to be exhilarating ever since I was a kid. But of course, as a dad now, I need to tone things down and learn to walk away more.

      You speak to highly of my assistant coaching position. Anybody can be an assistant coach. Just most people are smart enough not to be one for a third year a row due to the low pay and tremendous amount of time required.

      I’ve asked to do part-time this year, but they keep on pulling me in. They wanted me to go down to LA for three nights for a HS tournament and offered to pay me $400. I passed. I wouldn’t go down for $4,000 to be away from my family for that long. $40,000, I’d have to think about it though :)

  8. This is an interesting way to look at it because it is totally different than the way I feel about networking. I have mixed feelings because on one hand, categorizing people and choosing relationships based on filling your categories like a stock portfolio may be really effective in climbing the corporate ladder. At the same time this feels pretty transactional and as an executive if I knew that someone was categorizing everyone in their circle into boxes and plotting, I may not want to be in that circle very bad. This is going to sound lame but just being genuine, having integrity, and delivering more than what is expected every day can be very attractive and created most of my best networking relationships from the janitor to the CEO. Perhaps these are different views or perhaps they could both be employed successfully? I won’t claim that there is any one way to network and this post certainly made me think

    1. ” This is going to sound lame but just being genuine, having integrity, and delivering more than what is expected every day can be very attractive and created most of my best networking relationships from the janitor to the CEO.”

      This is what we all hope for. But just being yourself takes no effort. And if you find your progress to be weak, then you must make a strategic effort.

      You can be your 100% genuine self after you’ve achieved financial freedom. Until then, being 90% your genuine self and 10% strategic still works.

  9. Well I think I got the healer category of networking more than covered. Lol

    I would like to think I have a few unfiltered geniuses as well and probably qualify as one myself for a few of my friends who ask my opinion on doing things all the time.

    Would be ideal to have someone who is in the educator network circles as my daughter is fast approaching college admissions time and I don’t have millions to legally bribe her way in.

  10. Networking is extraordinarily useful, but it’s also the journey of ten thousand steps. Meet and befriend all these types, but don’t expect to in year one.

    I think poor expectations and rushing were my biggest flaws networking in my early career.

  11. This makes so much sense!! Love your creativity and advice. I was never very good at networking and am lagging behind on your list. I wish I knew more doctors as they would be really useful as I continue to get older. I’ve kept in touch with my favorite boss at least. :)

  12. FS, I’m going to send this article to my 2 boys. This was exactly what I’ve been nagging them about growing up till my tongue turned blue. Thanks

    1. Good to hear Dick. Might be better coming from someone other than their dad.

      Unnatural networking is tough. But if you’ve got a career, you’ve got to focus on the prize. Then you can be completely unstrategic and natural once you have the freedom.

  13. This is fantastic advice on networking, Sam. From a career perspective, the importance of networking can’t be overstated. Meeting someone who can refer you to the right person at the right time is partly how I got my current job. And I hate networking, but my situation was bad enough that I forced myself to do it.

    If I may offer an extra piece of advice, don’t ignore those relationships once you’re no longer in need of their “services”. I’m actually going to a networking event tonight even though I’m no longer on the job market. Why? It’s not to scout opportunities for a new job (as I just said), nor is it really to meet anyone new (though I always welcome that). No, my primary goal is to maintain the relationships I already did establish by making an appearance and keeping up with everyone. This way, not only do I keep myself fresh in everyone’s minds when I eventually AM looking for work, but it also takes away any impression that I only engage with them if I actively want something. Nobody likes those kinds of people, and even if I myself am propably one of them at heart, I’d rather try NOT to be like that.

    ABR–Angry Retail Banker

  14. Having just started a blog, this article was really useful to me. It taught me that being part of a network is crucial. But more important, it won’t happen by itself.

    I look forward to seeing what other commenters do about growing their networks.

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