Networking Tip: Your reference group is the single most important factor in career success

Last week I read the following text in an article:

“David McLelland of Harvard did a 25-year research study of the factors that contribute most to success. He found that, holding constant for age, education, occupation, and opportunities, the single most important factor in career success is your “reference group.” Your reference group is made up of the people with whom you habitually associate and identify. These are the people you live, work, and interact with outside of work. You identify with these people and consider yourself one of them. They consider you one of them, as well.”

The question that follows is: “What can we do with this knowledge?”

Let’s explore some ways:

 1) In networking in a professional environment: who are the people you frequently meet? Are they people who help you reach your goals? Are they givers or sharers? Or only takers? (And how about yourself? Are you a giver/sharer or taker?)

2) In the referral process: are the people in your reference group connected to the prospects you want to meet? And who belongs to their reference group?

3) Many people are not happy in life. If that’s you: look at your reference group. How do they influence you? Chances are that there are people in your reference group that have negative energy and influence you consciously or subconsciously.

4) Many people don’t reach their goals or don’t take decisions in their life. Again: look at the reference group. Is it supporting you? No really, do they REALLY support you. As Anthony Robbins said: “Your peers (or reference group) pulls you down sometimes, not because they don’t love you, but just because they DO love you. They don’t want you to get hurt.” Sometimes our reference group sabotages us and most of the times not deliberately (see also a previous post).


Just give a thought about these 4 topics. As you see in my opinion you can have several reference groups in different parts of your life.

Also give a thought to this: what kind of reference group member are you? The supporting and inspiring kind? Or the down-pulling and negative kind?

Have a great networking week!


Founder of Networking Coach and networking speaker

PS: if you have more ideas about how to use them, feel free to send me an e-mail or post it as a comment.


One Response to Networking Tip: Your reference group is the single most important factor in career success

  1. Anne says:


    When networking and exchanging referrals it is imperative to connect with those that you trust. That is why I agree that reference groups are important. A new website that I found called Referral Key helps you build and manage your trusted network to exchange qualified referrals to ultimately help you succeed in your career. I highly recommend it.


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