Who Is Best to Network With? Try These Four “Connection Types” to Find Out

 Want a summary of Connection Types to take with you? Click to scroll to the Connection Types infographic.

 What you know is just as important as who you know. People in your network can give you referrals, insider advice that you can’t find online, and help you switch careers. If you’re not taking advantage of these connections, you’re passing up a huge opportunity. The greatest allies in your career journey are hidden within your network. While the internet is full of generic career information, networking the modern way can get you:

  • Career advice tailored to your situation
  • Insider knowledge on specific jobs, careers, and industries
  • Industry connections
  • Valuable referrals
  • Jobs that aren’t posted online

Which begs the question: Who do you talk to?

Who are these allies, and how do you find them? How do you know if they can actually help, or if you’re wasting their time? 

Networking efficiently to move your career forward

With all of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree connections in your network, how do you know who is best to reach out to?

You only have so much time and energy to spend, so it’s best spent on connections that will actually be fruitful.

Even if you narrow it down to people who are within your field of interest, it’s still hard to determine who to reach out to: Your friend a year ahead of you? Someone who’s been in the field for a few years? 5 years? 20 years? HR, executives, or neither?

Without understanding the Connection Types within your network, you are flying blind. You reach out to random people, asking random questions, hoping you’ll stumble upon something useful.

Blurred, busy city street with many people walking different directions.

A random experience is disappointing for you and for the people that want to help you. No one wants to show up, only to find out that the advice they are ready to share isn’t the advice that you need.

Yet, this happens all the time.

What happens when you don’t know your contact’s Connection Type

For instance, take Rashad, a marketing analyst. When Joseph met with Rashad, Joseph asked him, “tell me what jobs in retail logistics are like.”

While Rashad works for a large retail company, he works in marketing. He doesn’t know anything about retail logistics. He doesn’t have the experience Joseph is looking for. Immediately, their once-promising meeting became awkward.

Was Rashad the right person for Joseph to connect with?

Given the questions Joseph askedno. But had Joseph asked Rashad things he knows about, yes!

For instance, had Joseph asked Rashad about his experience in the hiring process, the company culture, and his transition into the company, Joseph would have struck gold. Tapping into Rashad’s experience would have given Joseph useful insider advice.

Most likely, Rashad would have connected Joseph to someone in the logistics department for a follow-up conversation. Neither of those things happened because Rashad didn’t tap into what Joseph had to offer.

The more you understand about the types of people in your network and what they can offer you, the more effective connecting can be for you and your contacts.

Learn about Connection Types to boost your career

The key to using networking to get a job and advancing your career is identifying the different “Connection Types” within your network.

Once you understand the four different Connection Types embedded within your network, you’ll:

  • Be able to easily identify them
  • Know how they can help you
  • Know how to find them in your network

We’re here to help you do that. 

The four Connection Types in your network

 From our research, we’ve identified four distinct Connection Types that reside in professional networks:

  1. Guides
  2. Advisors
  3. Supporters
  4. Connectors
Each Connection Type is recognized by the specific type of experience they have and advice that they can offer you. Knowing what each Connection Type can offer helps you reach out to the right people in your network.
Summary of a Guide: has recent experience, gives practical advice, and offers HR contacts.

GUIDES

How to Identify a Guide: Guides are two steps ahead of you. They have less than 5 years of career experience in their field. Guides have recently crossed the threshold to an inside view of a company’s hiring process.

How Guides Can Help: Because Guides have recently gone through the process themselves, they can give you the details to “guide you” to that job. For example, they can tell you what the job is really like, what skills are important, and how the hiring process works.

Guides anticipate your needs because they remember what it was like being in your shoes not too long ago. They LOVE sharing what they’ve learned and practical tips that can help get you places. Guides don’t like to be treated as experts since they’re still new and are learning their field.

Legs walking down path of leaves among green trees and grass.

The types of questions you may ask a Guide are:

  • “What’s that job like?”
  • “How did you get it?”
  • “How can I get it, too?”

Guides are most likely to have HR contacts and to give referrals for jobs they have or had recently. In fact, they may even be incentivized to do so. Beyond kudos for helping recruit talent to their company, many organizations offer employee incentives for good referrals. Incentives vary greatly by company with the most common range being about $1,000 – $2,500.

If you’re looking for a job, a Guide is the perfect Connection Type to talk to. You can learn more about how to connect with Guides in our Networking Guide for Job Seekers.

How to Find Guides in Your Network: Guides are often friends of your friends, former classmates, or coworkers. Your network is likely full of them.

Guides are the most accessible and most overlooked resources in your network. Do a quick search of your LinkedIn network. You may be surprised by how many Guides are available to you.

If you need help finding Guides in your network, check out this LinkedIn Search for Job Seekers Course for a play-by-play.

Summary of an Advisor: has extensive experience, gives directional advice, and offers industry contacts.

ADVISORS

How to Identify an Advisor: Advisors have more than 5 years of career experience in their field. They understand how their field works and how to successfully navigate it. They can describe the big picture that Guides can’t see yet.

How Advisors Can Help: Unlike Guideswho are closer to peersAdvisors may feel more like coaches. Choosing Advisors with 5 -10 years career experience means you are talking with people who are seasoned, but who can still relate to you. If you reach out to people with 15 – 20 more years of experience than you have, it’s likely that their lofty advice will be less relevant to you.

Advisors have figured out how to succeed in their field so they can “advise” you on how it works. They can give you an overview of their industry, help provide career direction, and solve problems. Advisors like to test their expertise and network, and will gladly make introductions for you. Advisors are who you go to when you want big picture answers rather than how-to tips for applying for jobs.

Hiker at edge of valley with mountains, lake, green landscape, and vast blue skies

The types of questions you may ask an Advisor are:

  • “What are my career options in this field?”
  • “What are the pros and cons of the various directions I could take?”
  • “Given my skills and interests, where do you think I’d be a good fit in this field?”

Are you trying to figure out the next step in your career? An Advisor is the Connection Type to talk to. Learn more about how to connect with Advisors in our Networking Guide for Career Explorers.

How to Find Advisors in Your Network: Advisors are often found through alumni or association affiliations. They may have offered you their business card at an event a few years ago. They may also be former employees of a company that you work for now.

Make finding Advisors in your LinkedIn network a breeze with this LinkedIn Search for Career Explorers Course.

Summary of a Supporter: has similar experience, gives supportive advice, and offers community contacts.

SUPPORTERS

How to Identify a Supporter: While Guides offer job-specific advice and Advisors offer industry-specific wisdom, Supporters play a more personal role. In the old days, networking focused on a narrow set of topics, like how to get a job or figure out your next step. But today, connecting has expanded to include mentoring advice on topics far beyond job logistics.

At some point, you may struggle to overcome a personal obstacle related to advancing your career. Supportersmentors or role modelsare people who can help you you navigate the specific challenge you are facing. You trust their advice because they’ve navigated through these same challenges themselves.

How Supporters Can Help: Supporters can offer you essential advice others around you can’t. The unique obstacles you may face require tailored advice from someone who’s been there.

For instance, maybe you are pregnant and wondering how to manage the next step as a working mom? Or you’re a person of color uncertain about joining a company with little racial diversity? Or a veteran looking to transition to a civilian career? Perhaps you’re hearing impaired, gay, an immigrant, or first-to-college in your family. Or maybe you are thinking of starting your own company? In all these cases, you are facing challenges that need more specialized “support”. That’s where Supporters in your network can help.

Supporters have been in a similar position as you, so you they can relate to you. They’ve navigated similar challenges as you and can explain how they did it, and what they’ve learned. They offer tried and true advice, encouragement, and useful resources.

Two daisies among green plants

Questions you might have for a Supporter are:

  • “How did you accomplish x-goal given y-challenges?”
  • “How should I handle x-situation in the most effective way?”
  • “Have you tried different strategies for tackling x-problem? What were the outcomes for each?”

Supporters anticipate basic questions you may have surrounding these obstacles. They like to offer how-to’s, dos and don’ts, and examples of what happened in their experience. They can point you to proven resources that you might not know about. Supporters can often connect you to groups or people like you trying to do the same thing you are.

If you need help navigating a unique career obstacle, a Supporter can help. Learn more about how to connect with Supporter in our Networking Guide for Getting Mentoring.

How to Find Supporters in Your Network: If you know a friend or acquaintance in your network who has faced similar challenges as you, they’re likely a Supporter. Supporters also can found through affinity groups and member affiliations. You’ll find them in communities that cater to people with your similar circumstance or identity.

Ask people you trust for introductions. They’ll likely know the best people for you to talk to. The best Supporters are those who have recently tackled your same challenge. Like anything, as time goes by, it’s harder to remember the details of how you managed a tough situation. So favor people who have more recent experience to share. They usually have the most relevant advice for you.

You can also search for Supporters in your LinkedIn network.

Summary of a Connector: has personal experience, gives general advice, and offers surprising contacts.

CONNECTORS

How to Identify a Connector: Connectors are people who take a friendly interest in your career success. Unlike Guides, Advisors, or Supporters, Connectors don’t work in your field or have specific experience relevant to your situation. If there’s someone who is happy to connect with you, but they aren’t a Guide, Advisor, or Supporter, then they are a Connector by default.

How Connectors Can Help: The advice Connectors have may or may not be relevant to your current career interest, but you may find something interesting in their personal experience.

Connectors can often make surprising connections for you. So don’t be afraid to ask them who they know and see what the brainstorming yields.They like to reach into the far corners of their network, to people they rarely have a reason to talk to—people who could be Guides, Advisors and Supporters for you.

Woman in sweater holding sparkler at dusk

How to Find Connectors in Your Network: Anyone can be a Connector. Oftentimes, they find you. Connector conversations can happen spontaneouslywhile waiting in line, sitting on a bus, or working at a coffee shop.

Connectors may be people you knowalumni, neighbors, friendsthat can’t advise you directly, but would gladly introduce you to their connections, if asked.

Get face-to-face with with your network

Recognizing the four Connection Types is the key to finding the right people to help you take the next step in your career. Being able to identify the four Connection Types makes the best use of your time and energy by zeroing in on those who have the exact experience and knowledge that you need.

If you’re not happy with your career, it’s time to start networking with those who can help you make a change. Finding the right people in your network to talk to is only the first step. Next, you’ll want to reach out to them for an informational interview.

Writing networking emails from scratch is easier said than done. Yet, you don’t want to resort to email templates eitherthey’re generic, awkward, and there’s a chance your contact has seen the template you’re thinking of using before. That’s why we created Email Builders as part of MANGO for everyone to usefor free.

Email Builders coach you on what to say and how to say it, while you’re writing your networking email. Don’t let writer’s block stop you from reaching out and advancing your career. Your network is powerful and waiting to help you.

Use our FREE Email Builders to write an outreach email today, without the guesswork.

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Sue Wollan Fan is the Founder & CEO of MANGO, a free networking tool whose mission is to expand opportunities for all by making networking easier, accessible, and more human. She has mentored hundreds to succeed professionally while serving as a corporate executive, nonprofit leader, tech entrepreneur, and mother of three. She is passionate about helping others do work that matters.