Online professional networks have made all of us feel like accomplished networkers. While undoubtedly invaluable for making new connections and staying in touch with existing ones, the rather superficial, one-click networking that takes place on these networks isn’t sufficient for the kind of high-level networking that enables leaders to make truly meaningful connections that can make a career- and life difference.
Indeed, because social media makes it very easy to expand online networks and boast large numbers of connections, it is easy to forget there is a great deal more science behind networking than at first glance.
When serial entrepreneur and best-selling author Michael Simmons interviewed one of the world’s leading social network scientists, Ron Burt, he shared an x-y graph which Simmons said “completely flipped” his understanding of career success and clearly showed him the power of the right kind of networking.
The science in this discussion was based around open and closed networks. In short, the further to the right you go on the graph towards a closed network the more you “repeatedly hear the same ideas”, reckons Simmons, which reaffirms what you already believe. And he writes: “The further left you go toward an open network, the more you’re exposed to new ideas. People to the left are significantly more successful than those to the right.”
Indeed, Simmons conclusion is that being part of an open network instead of a closed one is the “number one predictor” of career success. What’s more, he reckons, that the study on which the findings were based, showed that half of the predicted difference in career success (promotion, compensation and industry recognition) is due to “this one variable”.
Rialto Consultancy has many years involvement in helping individuals access high-quality networks that can expose them to new thinking as well as new career and business opportunities. High-level networking also forms a key component of our executive transition, career coaching, and personal branding programmes.
There are times when even the most experienced of leaders will find it difficult to leave their comfort zone and embrace new thinking, ideas as well as potential contacts. But in reality, the vast majority of people spend their career lifecycle in closed networks. This shouldn’t be a surprise since many people remain in the same sectors and industries.
We also tend to mimic the same activity in our personal lives. Consider, for example, when you last did something socially outside of your immediate group of friends? Indeed, many of our peer groups date back to school, college and university days.
This can be extremely limiting though and doesn’t align with the demands of modern leadership. Leaders must be agile, adaptable, curious and constantly keen to learn. These behaviours can be stimulated and enhanced by exposure to, more open and vibrant networks.
Rialto can help to identify and build new networks and broaden existing ones. Because networking is incorporated into our career transition, coaching and branding programmes, we can also advise on a personal networking strategy, tailored to an individual and their career aspirations.
We have online networks such as Linkedin to thank for raising the profile of networking and making it accessible to everyone. They are extremely valuable tools for making and communicating with global connections and building an online presence and following. And there is no doubt that they are an important accompaniment to face-to-face networking. But by applying some science and seeking expert help, individuals can turbocharge their networking and take it to another level.
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