Put the "work" back in your network

network

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Nope.

“It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” Not that either.

It’s not what you know, or who you know – it’s how you are known that determines your success. Ding, ding, ding!

Are you known as someone who gets the job done? Are you known to be a person of integrity? When people need a hand, are you the kind of person they reach out to? When they hear of an opportunity, would they keep you in mind? Would they go out on a limb for you? How well do people know you, and what is your reputation among friends and colleagues?

In this day and age, both our professional and personal interactions have become increasingly virtual. From LinkedIn to Facebook to the countless other online communities that exist, we stockpile people into our “networks” like kids hoarding candy. LinkedIn is an amazing networking tool, but that’s what it is – a tool. A hammer doesn’t replace the house it is used to build. LinkedIn is great for representing and organizing our networks, as well as providing ways to stay in touch with people. We can add, share, like, and endorse all the live long day, but virtual interactions can only supplement, not replace real interactions. We exist out there in the real world, and we need to make sure we are tending to our real relationships, not just adding avatars to our virtual networks.

When it comes down to it, for someone to be willing to take action that impacts you, they need to know you, the flesh and blood person. They need to trust you and know what you are about. So much gets lost in virtual communication – tone of voice, eye contact, facial expressions, attention – the things that tell us about someone’s character, humor, openness, willingness to listen, etc. If you want people to know you, go interact with them in person. Don’t send an email when you can walk down the hallway and have a two-minute conversation. Take a colleague out for lunch once a week. Be strategic in how you maintain your connections. Build reciprocity by helping people connect with others or with information they might find valuable. Help them know how they can help you by sharing what you are working on to open a conversation about how your goals overlap.

Don’t just “grow” your network – nurture it. A garden doesn’t produce based on the number of seeds you plant, but on how well you tend it. If you want your network to work for you, you have to work for it.

 

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