Does networking make you cringe? Isn’t it enough to have a LinkedIn profile? Experienced writer and media guru Karen Wickre provides a wealth of practical advice about personal networks. She dispels myths about what they are, how they work and what’s really required to maintain them. Her approach is refreshingly warm, genuine and human. A personal network is not about having a big LinkedIn or Facebook following. It’s about bringing people together in ways that help them, and sometimes you get something out of it, too. getAbstract recommends Wickre’s counsel to people needing inspiration for growing and maintaining their networks.
Like it or not, everyone needs a personal network. Modern career paths involve changing jobs more often than ever before; more people are freelancing and most people want to be more connected. Building a valuable source of help, inspiration and leads can be enjoyable.
“I think of my own network as a living organism, one I work to nurture consistently, and from which I occasionally draw for a specific need. (Gardening metaphors are not out of place.)”
Personal networks evolve organically with time and shared experiences. They can be made up of old school friends, former colleagues, contacts from conferences, recruiters and friends of friends. However, commenting on each other’s posts on social media isn’t enough to maintain a personal network. It’s the quality, not the quantity of your contacts that matters, so they need some one-on-one attention.
“Your closest friends may not be the best resource. Don’t forget to keep up with your weak ties – the people who are likely to be more remote, occasional and not obvious contacts.”
To begin, simply keep in “loose touch” with contacts by sending them the odd tidbit of information that is relevant to their industries or interests. Social media and email are fine for this, as it’s just a way to touch base. This keeps communication open so it’s easy to contact people for help at a later date. Every week or two, respond to any requests for support and consider sending some, too.
“We live in a world of many unknowns. The more you can learn from others…the more you can ask for or give help to others on their path, the more knowns emerge – and we’re all better off.”
All contacts can be valuable. People who think they only need to connect with a select few are missing the point. Keep in touch with “weak ties” – the distant acquaintances on the edge of your personal network. Because weak ties move in different circles, these people can have more useful information than close friends, depending on what’s involved.
It’s important to treat contacts well and to be consistent. See each as a long-term relationship, not a one-time exchange. Be generous whenever someone needs advice, an idea or an introduction. Everyone needs this from someone at some time, so give back whenever possible. Be prompt, honest and tactful in all dealings with contacts when they need help. Don’t ignore anyone or keep them waiting. When job hunting or on the receiving end of the network’s power, be sure to give thanks and regular updates to those who have come to your aid. Ultimately, knowing people who know people provides a buffer against the unknown. In this way, personal networks benefit everyone.