graphics of people in a connection chain representing social media connections

Take 30 seconds to think about, describe, and articulate what your network does for you.

How do you feel about what you just came up with? Based on your answers how do you want to improve your network and what it does for you?

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What type of networker are you?
  • How would you grade the quality of your network?
  • What do you want out of your network?

What type networker are you?

We all fit somewhere along a spectrum that describes how we build and plug into a network. Think about your comfort level with groups you frequent. Are they smaller groups where you know everyone well? Larger groups where you connect with people of different backgrounds and fewer deep connections? Or are you comfortable in large groups where you do not know many people very well.

I think of this as a spectrum; small groups with deep familiar relationships on the left and moves to large limited familiarity groups on the right. Place yourself on that spectrum.

network spectrum

What does this tell you about yourself?

The Quality of Your Network

Size, connectivity, and interaction are the gauges that come to mind.

Size. How big is your network? The typical response is the size of one’s LinkedIn network. Occasionally, other social media metrics will be used. Is that the actual size? I don’t think so. Think about the number of individuals you know and interact with personally and professionally on a regular basis as the starting point. Then move to those on a less regular basis. Keep moving to former colleagues and friends who would recognize, talk with you, take a call, or respond to an email. Now you are getting a feel for the size of your network.

Connectivity to the network for me is a feeling that comes from familiarity and ease of interaction. If interactions feel forced it is not where I want it to be. Recognized as an active member has a much different feel. I believe this is the most important measure of the quality of your network.

Frequency that creates the level of engagement needed is what most of us are after. That can be different for different parts of the network.

What do You Want Out of Your Network?

Most answers are something such as, support in your current and future endeavors. Individuals in a career transition are looking for introductions and connections. Business owners; potential partners, customers, or connections to support their operations. Nonprofits organizations; partners, donors, employees. What do you want from your network?

Putting Your Network to Work

To me your network is a series of concentric circles. In the middle you have 1. your closest contacts; family, current daily associates, 2. Colleagues you interact with intermittently. 3. Dormant relationships, colleagues whose interaction has diminished over time.  4. Complete strangers.

4 different sized circles placed in each other numbered 1 through 4

Where do you believe the greatest potential for assistance and growth lies? Most believe in area 1, your most familiar connections or 4, starting to meet folks you do not know. Research by David Burkus concludes the greatest growth is in number 3, your dormant relationships. At one point they were close to the center, life happened and the connection went dormant.

Why not area 1? Because these are your people. They hang around with folks you know and are like you. Not the best group to assist you in moving into new circles.

Wake Up Your Network!

You want growth in your network, wake up those dormant connections. Make a simple but genuine connection and see what happens.

Something such as: “It’s been a while since we last connected, I am currently looking at making a transition/growing my business/increasing the reach of my nonprofit. I would welcome the opportunity to reconnect see what you have going on and how we might be able to assist each other.”

You are also in their dormant circle. They know you are now in a different circle full of potential connections. It brings networks together and overlaps them creating a series of new contacts around you.

network categories

This is a more efficient use of time rather than attempting to expand your network with entirely new unfamiliar connections.

How are you going to deliberately wake up your network so it serves you?