Here are some simple steps you can take to start easy, and create a habit of expanding the value of your network by bridging gaps.
Make a list of everyone you have exchanged email with in the past month [gmail search]
Add to your list some personal notes: what they do for a living, their likes, hobbies, etc.
Re-read through your list so it is fresh in your mind
Start at the top of your list, and think of one other person that person could benefit from knowing
If there is no immediate need for the two to know each other, find some bit of information particular to the two of them based on their job, interests, hobbies etc.
Send the info to both of them at the same time, and ask a question you want to know the answer to. Don’t forget to tell them why you’re asking both of them. Dear Scuba experts, my brother-in-law is looking for a new XYZ, what is your experience with this model… If you can’t think of a question you genuinely want to know, just send the info and the reason why you think they’d both find it useful.
Under each person in your notes, record you have connected the two of them, when it was, and what the topic was.
Done with your list? Great! Add another month’s email to your list, and repeat.
I am big fan of looking to outside fields for ideas and expertise. Case-in-point: I recently came across a reference to a great study about contract law – when people rely on the contract for enforcement during the course of business, and when they don’t. Hint: they usually don’t; they rely on the relationship.
Translating the findings to social network analysis, we come up with six great pieces of advice for all aspiring master networkers:
Established relationships provide more value than new ones.
Your reputation is critical to creating new relationships.
The more your peer gets out of a relationship, the more you will get out of it: deliver excellence.
If you are stuck together for the foreseeable future, you will both get more out of the relationship. This could be from getting forced to trust each other or pushing harder to get more out of the relationship.
New relationships are easier through introductions as the introducer can punish the introducee, through reputation or otherwise, if he does not deliver.
Your network is your asset and yours alone, no one is invested the way you are to maintain your relationships.
Your network can help you or work against you, it all depends on the level alignment between your network and your goals. If you are trying to get something done with a team, your network should reflect that. If you are looking for new opportunties, your network should reflect that.
I wrote a short piece for Pollock|Spark about personal networks and suggesting people beginning thinking about the power of networking to help meet their goals.
Every book on sales, finding a new job, etc. stress the importance of networking, and rightly so. While is certainly easier for some than others, the validity to networking is no longer the question. The question you want to ask yourself is: who?
Over our lifetimes of participating with networks ranging from work, to family, to neighborhoods, to hobbies; we accumulate many contacts. There are significantly more effective and efficient ways to spread the word than reaching out to everyone you know, if you know your network.
Let’s go through a few hints, using the image in this article created from my personal email over the past year or so. Click on the image to blow if up larger.
Respect your friends and colleagues. If you abuse their hospitality and trust, not only will you lose them, but you’re also done for.
Don’t spend equal time with everyone. Some people can help you more than others.
If everyone in a group knows each other, only spend time on only a handful of people. When everyone knows each other, the network is dense. Many of the orange and yellow clusters in the image are dense.
Make a special effort with people that connect one or more of your groups.