Here’s an entrepreneur talking. You know you must attend a thousand different events, be active in social media, be present, cultivate relationships with partners, clients, peers, stakeholders. You need to have a reputation, build a profile, and be consistent with it. You have a big HR manager for yourself, which is called the market. In the end, you live in an environment, in a network of networks in which is easier than ever to find new connections. But in which is also as difficult as ever to turn those into MEANINGFUL ones.
You know that probably 80% of that time will be useless, of absolutely no value (maybe Pareto might also be applied here). But you need to show up, just to come across the 20% gems out of the whole activity.
Linkedin, as the central hub/market to accomplish this kind of networking functions, may be considered a reasonably efficient tool. But maybe it’s mainly a useful tool for quantity. So we would like to know what your feelings are about your network, whether you think about it, and act about it on purpose. And in short, how is your effort, and how you feel your results reflect that effort. Are you happy with the management of your professional network?
1. Do you prime quantity over quality? What are you looking for?
It seems that to be a star, what it takes is to have thousands of connections, even though you do not have a close personal relationship with most of them. Sometimes it makes us think whether we are looking for links or followers. Do you know everyone in your networks? Or are you accepting invites just to enlarge your reach? Especially at Linkedin, are you building a network or a showroom for your reputation? Do you read many posts from your connections and react? Are you genuinely interested in your timeline, or just expect others to be interested in yours? What would happen if tomorrow half of your LinkedIn connections disappear?
2. Where do you find your most trustworthy partners and connections?
Sometimes they say that a club on a Friday night is not the best place to find someone to marry. So are social media the place to find meaningful connections? Or just a marketplace for fast food? Sometimes you realize that you are not connected in social medial with someone essential for your network. Do we need other spaces for the relevant people? And in this sense, when you try to find a new connection for any purpose, where do you go? Do you jump from one tree to another to cross the forest, or you just go to your phonebook and send a PM to find a trusted opinion and jump safely?
3. Do you have a strategy to manage your network?
Does your network grow organically, or you developed a plan to feed it conduct its growth? Do you just rely on luck or any specific need, or you try to build it consistently, brick by brick? If you turn your sight to the past, are you happy with the development of your network? Would you do anything differently? Do you think social media has changed the way we connect and the shape of our networks? Or are we just in an online “business as usual” scenario, in which technology is only one more tool to do the same we did? Do you purposely apply criteria to enlarge the scope of your relationships? Do you hand-pick your objectives and pursue these connections through different tools and means? Do you have some kind of mental or technical CRM to take care of your contacts?
4. What’s the percentage of “peer to peer” in your network? How do you address “different levels,” up or down?
The majority of our network is composed of “peer” members (I couldn’t say a number, but the percentage may be higher than 75%). Similarly, most of your close relationships are in a range of 10 years up or below your age. But connections up and down the ladder may be essential for your development, too. Sometimes we only think about the ones who can get you to levels you cannot reach so far. We think about people who are already higher or more prominent than we are, mentors, C-level executives, shareholders, or big investors. But it’s also essential to build a reliable web of connections in other environments, those who could be of value in many different senses. How do you work on those types of relationships? Do you find it easy to go to not so “natural” connections to you? Do you use the same methods or techniques for these connections than for the rest?
5. Do you work a lot offline to build and take care of your network?
In the age of technology, how important is it still the offline world for your network growth and hygiene? According to many HR experts, word-of-mouth is the top option for many recruiters to fill in more than eighty percent of the jobs, especially in headhunting. So many of the posts never really go public in the work portals, and the higher the skills, the lower the public visibility, and the more opaque and fenced.
I’ll give you my perspective and reflections on the issue. I think that networks, especially when it comes to building deep and meaningful connections, are managed in an extraordinarily ineffective and inefficient way. The tools that technology provides are, for the majority of people, quite bulk, which is not very useful for the development of long term relationships. You can intensively use social media to develop your network, even with premium options. But still, we didn’t find yet a way to hack the kind of connections that take time and effort to build, akin friendship.
Trust, as the main catalyzer of productive and durable relationships, is so difficult to hack. We may have even equations. David Maister and Charles H. Green did that when they split up trust into credibility, reliability, intimacy, and (in a negative way) self-orientation. But technological shortcuts are not developed yet, and this is something that might seem surprising in the era of big data and artificial intelligence.