In June I attended a talk organised by BCS Edinburgh & BCS Women  with Dr Sara Shinton advertised: ‘Growing your luck’ but she then changed it to ‘Distilling your luck’. The premises of this talk were ideas around networks and how “being lucky” is not 100% down to luck. As it takes a lot of work, effort and thoughtfulness to build and sustain networks. What others, and often ourselves, perceive as luck is actually skills, knowledge, experience and lots of other things.

If you were more lucky, what would that look like? A great question to reflect on your career path to date, the next steps and, I guess, life in general. Like Sara, I haven’t really had a career plan set out and I am rather a re-active person BUT I definitely have found out about different opportunities like jobs, funding or voluntary roles through my networks.

The circles of control, influence & concern

Circle of Influence

The circle of control: these are things that you have control over e.g. degree you do at uni, internships, papers you publish, conferences you attend, things you agree to do.

The circle of concern: these are things out of your control but that concern you e.g. length of a paper review, location of a conference, deadlines, team members.

The circle of influence: this circle connects the other two circles – and this is where your network becomes important as this symbolises opportunities, offers, support, mentorship. With this in mind your efforts should go to building and maintaining your Circle of Influence.

Good networks (what this circle represents) will provide opportunities, celebrate successes (of other people) and influence agendas. To make sure you have a great Circle of Influence you should look for network ‘hubs’ as they are easier to break into e.g. at conferences, events organised by societies. And you should have some critical friends in your circle. These are people who offer support but also know your weaknesses and will help you build on your strengths. Have some mentors in there who offer a broader perspective and people that compliment your expertise and knowledge. Networks work best when you can offer something to others as well.

What does your network need to know about you to be able to support you?                 Do you need help looking for a job, or maybe you want to have a chat about options or maybe you are just not sure if a training course is worth your time. Communication is key to get the most out of your Circle of Influence. Sara gave some useful tips on how to communicate with your network:

  • Don’t let people’s assumptions stick
  • What will be in their head after they met/talked to you
  • Get to the point / Get a result
  • Respect people’s time

People will make assumptions about you all the time; e.g. they have a family and wouldn’t consider moving; they are fixed on staying in this role; they want to focus on x,y,z. I overheard two senior managers talk about a female colleague on a plane recently saying that she had great leadership potential but due to her small children she wouldn’t be able to move. They way they talked about it sounded like an assumption and not necessarily what the person they were talking about thinks.

What are you doing to help yourself?                                                                                            You should regularly reflect on yourself but also your networks and circle of influence – are they still relevant, are they still helpful, have you been maintaining them properly? As your circumstances change some of your networks might change naturally but as this can be time-consuming it’s good to do some house keeping. Think about successful people in your networks. Are there behaviours you could adopt (careful with toxic behaviour or things that don’t sit with your personality) – amending behaviours is a great option.

For Sara’s summary of a similar talk (including slides) click the link: and also check our her other great resources

I have written about my support networks here: Who’s your support network