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Professional Networking: Your Professional Network: Is It About Quantity Or Quality?
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Professional Networking: Your Professional Network: Is It About Quantity Or Quality? - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Your Professional Network: Is It About Quantity Or Quality?

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Your Professional Network: Is It About Quantity Or Quality?

Today’s online social networks have made it easy to maintain ridiculous numbers of contacts we may have only peripheral (or even second-hand) familiarity with. The click of a mouse button adds numbers to our circles with little effort, necessitating the need on many of these networks to distinguish “friends” from “real friends” and “close friends,” creating, in fact, a whole new definition of friendship.

This may all be fine for the sharing of food photos and cat videos, but while some networks are valued for their ability to cause vast stretches of time to disappear, a few supposedly exist for the enhancement of our careers, a realm in which wasted time is wasted money, to say the very least. By focusing on the sizes of our professional networks, are we increasing the likelihood that one of these connections will lead to something productive, lucrative, and mutually beneficial, or are we merely creating the illusion of a meaningful network when all we’re doing is adding to the noise while our signal gets lost in a sea of profiles?

In Networking is Dead: Making Connections that Matter (BenBella Books, 2012), authors Melissa G. Wilson and Larry Mohl share the (fictional) story of Meredith and Lance, two friends who agree to help each other expand their professional networks. They are introduced to Dan, who meets with them weekly, each time offering a new lesson in focusing on how to create quality connections. Emphasizing first the importance of understanding their own passions and motivations, then on identifying a small number of inner-circle professional acquaintances whose own motivations are similar, Dan helps Meredith and Lance with networking skills such as sharing their authentic stories, making great introductions, and learning to give first.

The authors don’t go so far as to insist that large networks are bad, but they do underline the advantage of a well-maintained inner circle of like-minded friends. Keeping in close touch with them, while also perpetuating our own giving attitudes and staying in touch with our deepest reasons for pursuing the work we do, is far more rewarding than showing up for contrived networking lunches where the goal sometimes seems to be tossing your business cards up in the air with the hopes that they will land in front of someone who cares.

The fictional Dan gives ten specific, themed lessons, each with a little checklist (and accompanying assignment) of things to remember as one adjusts one’s thinking in creating these connections that matter. It’s a very attitude-based and skill-based approach, one that offers a few specific, practical uses for professional network services such as LinkedIn.

Does this approach mean that we should give up on large, interconnected, multi-tiered networks? Wilson and Mohl don’t suggest this, and one wonders if there isn’t some way to combine this look-inward-first approach with the advantages of the “long tail” the huge networks LinkedIn makes possible. Surely there must be some way to practice the attitude and skills of being a quality contact while also keeping in casual touch with those on the fringes of our networks, those whom we may find it a blessing sometime in the future to have maintained or acquaintance in the present. In other words, perhaps the quality-quantity dichotomy doesn’t force a choice so much as it reminds us to keep the extremes in sight.

 

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Professional Networking: Your Professional Network: Is It About Quantity Or Quality? - Executive Leadership Articles

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