We've all been told to keep a small circle when it comes to friendships. You want a circle of those who know you, inside and outside. They understand your strengths your weaknesses, and keep your secrets in a vault. However, when it comes to your career and your "circle" a big one is best.
A circle for your career is about connection, but not about friendship. A friendship is about trust, emotions and mutual support. A connection, on the other hand, is a person, thing, or idea linked or associated with something else. When you think about your career, you absolutely want people in your circle who are associated with something else. You want people who are in your field, and also outside of your field. You need people who are at your career level, below your career level and far above it. You want folks who are working for big corporations, small companies, and for themselves. Add in a few folks who are retired and some who have yet to really get two feet into their careers.
Seems like a lot of people, right? Well, in the bigger picture of your career its not even close to being a lot. Let me paint the picture this way, go to five large companies which you deem "successful" and check out the people on their boards. You will find a range of industries represented. In order for you to work where you are, you must understand the bigger picture. Since you can't be everywhere or read everything, the people you are connected to can give you a perspective and view that you didn't realize.
Now take that view from the big circle and apply it to your next career move, either a new job or a promotion. Depending on what you are learning from your big circle, a lateral move within the same company might be the leverage you need in six months to move to the next company as a promotion. Make sense to you now?
I have some really great friends. When I look at my friendship circle, it is less than ten people. However, when I look at the people I have connected with through my career, the number is staggering. I'm not talking about LinkedIn connections, although 85% of my LinkedIn connections are actual people I know, I am talking about the range of industry and level. Check your career circle, if its not big, then it sounds like you have some networking to do.