Want to create a better professional network and build a community? You may want to consider becoming an advocate.
As Michael Roderick points out, there are four types of people in any professional’s network:
- Advocates, who are supportive and caring
- Boomerangs, who operate on a quid pro quo basis
- Celebrities, who, because you know them, generate popularity and better treatment by association
- Drains, who drain you of energy because they are always entitled to your help and you always feel compelled to give
Advocates are the rarest of the four categories, and they’re the ones you want to nurture the most.
Advocates, in my opinion, are people who help others out without expecting anything in return. They usually do it because they’re good people who genuinely enjoy seeing other people climb the ladder and make more money.
You have advocates. That person who helped you make payroll. Always says “how can I help” and means it.
Every professional has stumbled across an advocate at one point or another. Advocates are typically people who are extremely comfortable in their skin, in their personal lives, and in their careers. They don’t ask for anything in return for their assistance. Instead, they come along for the ride because they simply enjoy it.
Yes, they still like money and capitalism. It’s just that their paths are less transactional than the ones many other professionals decide to take.
How Being an Advocate Has Helped Me
I can’t remember the last time in my career when I’ve helped someone while expecting them to return the favor.
These days, I spend my time investing, networking, building, helping, and making friends. I don’t take myself too seriously, and I don’t compete with anyone for anything—especially the wrong people. Instead, I do everything I can to help others find success. In return, I make great friends, build strong bonds, expand my network of strong, authentic relationships, and—most importantly—develop more friendships based on mutual advocacy.
This stance has resulted in some pretty amazing unintended consequences. I’ve formed a number of strong, valuable relationships with some extraordinary people—many of whom are ridiculously high profile or otherwise successful in their own right. It has also given me the opportunity to join incredible companies, networks, events, and stages. It’s given me the ability to do what I enjoy doing most while providing for my family and achieving work-life balance.
Who to Advocate For
If you have the power to help someone improve their life, do it. This simple notion seems to be lost on a lot of people. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why.
I try to be an advocate for most people.
Time and again, professionals tell me how thankful they are even if results aren’t generated. Almost always, they follow that up by asking if there’s anything they could do for me.
It’s incredibly rewarding. I’m consistently amazed that a vast majority of these people aren’t just talking; they actually follow through.
How I Advocate
We are all incredibly busy. We are buried in email hell. We are all tied up with our lives, our families, our relationships, and our careers.
But whenever I meet somebody that I respect and am in a position to help, I’m going to help. And I’m going to work hard helping.
Every week, I spend about 10 hours doing the following:
- Introducing extraordinary people to extraordinary companies
- Helping fantastic teams and companies meet fantastic investors who are looking for their next investment
- Acquainting professionals who are building a great product to people who should be using it
- Advising businesses on my experiences with failure in case it can be helpful
- Helping entrepreneurs, professionals, and LPs avoid bad investment vehicles
The results have been great. But—as is the case with all else in life—there are some pitfalls:
- It can be a bottomless pit. Combine advocacy with essentialism; pick your battles.
- You’ll be misunderstood. People will think you’re always expecting something in return.
- Some people suck. They’ll never return your advocacy. In fact, they might even expect you to help them just because they think they’re entitled to it.
- Drains can really drain you. Channeling Roderick again: There are people who will ask for your help on a regular basis. They’ll drain your energy; avoid them.
- People are entitled. Don’t expect to hear a “thank you” every time.you shouldn’t need it, frankly.
- People forget. Introduce someone to someone else, and they hit it off. Don’t expect them to remember you introduced them. That’s not why you’re doing it in the first place.
Still, despite all that, I have nothing but good things to say about advocacy. If you’ve never done it before, you don’t know what you’re missing. What do you have to lose?