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The 3 successful people you need to have in your corner

From the very first time I worked in an ATM at age 16 and started intuitively increasing customers' pop and soft drink orders, I've cultivated a career in sales. After nearly a decade of working for big corporations, I decided to enroll in graduate school and start a new career as a writer. Less than six months after graduating, I became a full-time freelance writer.
But I didn't do it alone. I had three people in my corner who helped make my job freedom a reality. Here's who they are and how to add them to your network.
Related: 10 Ways to Find Your Perfect Mentor
Who:The Connector
Why:To become a writer, I left Southern California and returned to my hometown. I had been away for eight years and no longer “hook up,” but I had retained some of my high school and college friendships. One of those friends was Zack. Zack had been heavily involved in the startup scene – a group I had had no contact with.
When one of the startups he was friendly with mentioned they needed a copywriter content, Zack was happy to put them in touch with me. I did the rest. Zack and I still meet frequently at networking events, and he regularly introduces me to new people. Not only is Zack a connector, but he's a cheerleader who promotes my worth to others.
How:Connectors are easy to find. This is the person you see every networking event in town. They are open and friendly, so feel free to approach and introduce yourself. You can try to get to know them better by offering to take them to coffee or lunch, but be warned:they usually keep a full schedule. It might be best to start a friendship through social media while waiting for an opening on their social timeline.
Remember any connectors you already have on your network. Another friend of mine, Drew, works in the hospitality industry. In a former role, he had met a woman who was launching a new online medium and he knew the perfect writer to add to her list (me!). You never know who might be leading you, so let all your friends and family know what you're doing for work and taking on new clients.
Who:The next two steps
Why :When people hear “mentor,” they imagine stalking their city's Oprah to find out all their secrets. But you probably don't have that access. Plus, there are probably a few hundred steps between your career and Oprah's career. What you really need is someone who is just a few steps ahead of you and can lead you down a similar path.
My first regular column was the result of a friend of a friend, Alex, who wrote for the local publication in San Diego. She asked me if I wanted to write them an article on Beyoncé. His publisher liked my play enough to offer me a regular column. We quickly became friends. Alex is not only a San Diego columnist, but an established journalist who has published work in major national publications. Over the past year, I've turned to her for advice and to follow her career path, taking notes on the next steps.
Related: 6 Mentoring Do's and Don'ts
How To:Social media and networking events are a great place to spot the next two steps. It's easier to approach someone who's a little further along in their career than it is to find the courage to approach a CEO.
I belong to several writing-focused Facebook groups, and I reach out to writers I admire, and writers who admire me often find their way into my inbox. When you become a step forward, do the work being someone else's step forward. It is worth paying up front.

Who:the parallel peer

Why:I met Kaitlyn at a networking event for creatives (see a theme in development?). She had recently taken the plunge into full-time freelance work as well. Although she was a writer, many of her clients were publishing and PR services, as well as a business she had started with a friend.
Kaitlyn and I would discuss our financial goals and metrics we took to achieve them, and encouraged each other to push for bigger signings. We weren't in direct competition for opportunities, so there was no secrecy or jealousy. Kaitlyn helped me with pointers when one of my clients needed a light PR job. And I sent PR clients to Kaitlyn.
How:Kaitlyn technically found me. After our meeting, she sent me an invitation for a coffee. We've managed to keep in touch since then, despite both juggling hectic workloads. My advice for finding a parallel peer is when you meet someone new and have the polite "Let's have a coffee!" the invitation is simple:Go get that coffee .
The best parallel peer is someone whose drive is similar to yours so you can hold each other accountable, but what they are trying to achieve is not in direct competition with what you are trying to achieve to achieve. You can really encourage each other without being jealous of your happiness for your peer.
Taking on a new career is scary. Having the right people in your corner can help you realize your potential and get there faster.
No one does it alone. So find yourself a set of Zacks, Drews, Alexes and Kaitlyns, and watch your career take off.
Related: 8 ways to create a killer relationship with your mentors