A friend who is currently completing his executive MBA asked me some questions related to an assignment he is doing on professional networking.
1. What does the word “network” mean to you?
The network encompasses both people I directly interact with and people I indirectly interact with that I seek guidance from professionally and personally. Direct interactions are people I know personally and who I have symmetrical relationships with. Indirect means people I follow asymmetrically - I know them but they don’t know me.
2. Do you rely on social media to network?
Absolutely and for both categories mentioned above. Technology facilitates the connections. In the case of the indirect members of my network, I am 100% dependent on social networks, blogs, and online media to allow me to gain from their expertise and experience.
3. Who are the people you go to for professional advice?
People I seek advice from tend to meet this criteria:
a. They are in or have been in a position that I am striving towards as a part of my professional plan.
b. Many cases people I have worked directly with and/or met in a real-world sense
c. Their industry doesn’t need to be the same as mine. In fact, in most cases prefer that the person not be in my industry as I feel I need somebody whose cognitive frames are dissimilar to mine professionally. Having a person that isn’t in my industry also forces me to explain a situation in more detail which by itself is helpful in working out a problem.
4. What makes these people of particular value to you?
See my answer to #3.
5. What recommendations do you have for building and managing professional networks?
Don’t be shy to ask for help - put your pride aside. Nurturing a network requires real, conscious effort.