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Professional Networking: Doing The Dirty Work of Network Maintenance
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Professional Networking: Doing The Dirty Work of Network Maintenance - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Doing The Dirty Work of Network Maintenance

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Doing The Dirty Work of Network Maintenance

Networks, as we have said repeatedly, are not merely lists of names you might reach out to if you need a professional favor. They are more than collections of business cards you’ve amassed after years of power lunches, brown-bag lectures, and professional society mixers. They are personal connections, relationships, and webs of engagement, interaction, and yes: mutual benefit.

In this way, networks have something in common with families. As the holidays approach, we must all decide how important certain family ties are, and how much we are willing to endure in the name of family. Of course, professional networks don’t have quite the intangible bond of blood, tradition, and obligation that define most of our families, but we’ve all endured Cousin Winnie’s crazy political rants at Thanksgiving and Uncle Dave’s annual multi-level marketing pitch at New Year’s, even when we aren’t the least bit interested. We do these things in the name of family and because the relationships are important enough that we’re willing to take half an hour of discomfort once a year just to keep ourselves connected.

Similarly, sometimes maintaining our professional networks requires a few unpleasant hours in the name of keeping us connected. The need may be for something you actually believe in but have trouble making time for, like recruiting college students for those professional society mixers or wearing a t-shirt and participating in an organized walk for some kind of awareness. Many times, though, it’s something almost entirely a drag, like critiquing someone’s pitch for a product you have no interest in, or writing a LinkedIn endorsement for someone you barely know, or making edit suggestions on someone’s kid’s college application.

There is power and freedom in the ability to say no, but once the ability is gained, there develops great power in the willingness to say yes. Your time is precious, so saying no is understandable and acceptable. But every so often, when you say yes, you’re telling someone that your relationship with him or her is important to you. This goodwill can go a long way; it strengthens ties and adds a few credits to your bank of brownie points.

Thinking of it this way will almost surely tire you out, especially if you’re the sort to keep track of brownie points. Don’t be. Instead, be the person who’s in tune with the network, who understands that a helping hand strengthens the network for everyone, who encourages others in the network to help likewise. Sure, the thing itself may be a drag for the duration--let’s be realistic--but you’re doing something someone needs, which is the figurative blood that flows through your web.

You may never need a thing from Uncle Dave or his immediate family, but listening politely to him once per year for half an hour makes your family stronger even without direct benefit to you. Maintain your network in this way every so often, and the network itself is stronger and more vibrant.

 

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Professional Networking: Doing The Dirty Work of Network Maintenance - Executive Leadership Articles

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