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LinkedIn reveals it takes four people to build a career

The saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child” – and, as it turns out, it takes a community to build a career.

  • Rivals, cheerleaders and “work besties” all have a positive influence on work life
  • School teacher has biggest impact on career choice
  • Career Coach Alice Stapleton explains how to make the most of your own community

The saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child” – and, as it turns out, it takes a community to build a career.

Most Brits think that a career peaks at the age of 40[1], and new research from LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, has revealed that there are four key people who will help to get you there.

The data also revealed there are four different “types” of colleagues in the workplace who will have a positive impact on your career: the cheerleader (35%), the best friend (28%), the rival[2] (29%), and the work husband / wife (13%).

Surprisingly, 14% of British workers would actually rather have a rival than a cheerleader. Over a third (37%) said their rival has had a positive impact on their career, while only 20% said they’d had a negative impact.

Being motivated to succeed (67%) and work harder (49%) were the most popular reasons for having a work rival, and the younger generations are particularly tuned in to the benefits of healthy competition in the workplace – nearly half (47%) of 16-24-year-olds and over a third (39%) of 25-34-year-olds admitted to having a work rival.

However, the younger generations are also much more sociable with colleagues. A third (33%) of millennials[3] have a “work bestie” that they see outside of work, higher than the 28% average. These colleague-friends make them feel more confident at work (78%), and nearly half (43%) would even consider handing in their notice if their “work bestie” left their company.

We can also see the rise of the “work wife / husband”. Millennials are most likely (17%) to have a work husband or wife, saying their presence makes them feel more confident at work (75%). A huge 62% of millennials even admitted to preferring their work spouse to their partner at home.

When it comes to career choices and progression, UK workers’ network expands beyond these key players. The majority said that a school teacher (12%) had the biggest impact on their choice of career, while they attribute their progression to a manager in a current or previous role (21%).

Darain Faraz, Careers Expert at LinkedIn, said “as you go through your career – whatever stage you’re at – having a strong network is really crucial to helping you achieve your own version of success. Whether it’s the inspirational teacher from school or the boss that gave you a break in your first job, it’s so important to stay in touch with all those connections. While the research shows there are four key people who will have an impact on your career, we’ve found that LinkedIn members who reach 30 connections start to see the benefits of a network. The people around you can help you create your own successful career – whatever that means to you.”

Career Coach Alice Stapleton commented “It’s fascinating to see British workers’ reactions to having a rival - I think there are so many positive benefits to a bit of healthy competition. Having a rival can push you to deliver your best work and say yes to opportunities that are outside your comfort zone. As long as it’s seen as a positive force, I think it’s brilliant that 14% of UK workers would rather have a rival than a cheerleader. Although, having a balance is really important - Cheerleaders can be a great support, and are fantastic for building confidence and self-belief. Broadening your network can help you to identify these key players, build a strong community, and ultimately have a more successful career.”

Alice has also shared her top tips for making the most of your network:

1. Stay in touch with those you admire and respect - colleagues, ex-colleagues, managers, friends, even those you only meet once but who leave an impression. Connect with them on LinkedIn, using a personalised invite, and regularly post relevant and useful material for them to read and engage with. This helps to remind them of your expertise and existence, should an interesting opportunity arise.

2. Meet up with your key influencers on a regular basis. Invite them for a coffee or lunch. Share your aspirations and specific career goals in case they can help with introductions or references. Listen to their career journey and advice, as well as asking them for feedback on your plans and approach. Identify one person who truly inspires you and ask them to be your mentor/cheerleader.

3. Scan your network and make sure it contains varying types of people and professions. LinkedIn’s research revealed you need a cheerleader, best friend, work wife/husband, and a rival in order to build a successful career. Identify who these people are in your network. If one is missing, try and identity who could fulfil that role. Work on building that relationship, bearing in mind the impact you want them to have on you and your career.

4. Use LinkedIn to identify important connections in your network. Ask for relevant introductions that align with your career goals and aspirations. Networks are stronger when there’s a personal connection, so aim to grow your network organically. Quality is better than quantity when it comes to building your network.

5. Ask your peers for feedback on what they see as your strengths, and where you need to develop. We often have blind spots when it comes to self-perception, so use your network to fill in the gaps, and adapt accordingly.

6. Attend events on topics that interest you. There’s no point attending just any old networking event if it doesn’t inspire you, as the people attending won’t either. Follow up with a LinkedIn invitation to connect, explaining where you met, and why you’d like to stay in touch. Having a purpose to your connections can help you build a more effective network.

7. Suss out who your rivals are. Work out who in your team or network represents your competition. What has their career journey been like up to? What do you need to do in order to step up to their level? Having a healthy sense of rivalry can encourage you to put yourself forward for new opportunities that allow your unique skills and strengths to shine. Use your initiative to find ways of highlighting your readiness for promotion over your rival. Assess where the gaps are in their performance and be sure to show how you yourself are stronger in those areas.

One jobseeker found out just how important a professional network really is when LinkedIn decided to put the value of community to the test with a little social experiment… Take a look at the video below to see the final result for yourself.


[1] Based on 1,000 UK adults surveyed by Usurve

[2] A colleague or co-worker who is also climbing the career ladder and you frequently come up against for promotions and opportunities

[3] Aged 25-34