Who’s in Your Network?

By Dave Barnett, Vice President of Student Experience at CTU 

CTU Student Success - Who is in Your Network?“I just reached 500 connections on LinkedIn.” “That person must be somebody – she’s got 3,500 Facebook friends.”

You may have had these thoughts as you looked at someone’s online profile connections, or saw your own connection numbers ranking higher. Most people form an opinion about the strength of someone’s social network based on the numbers they see. However, when evaluating a social network, it’s more important to consider the nature of the connections rather than the numbers.

Networking is about forming genuine connections with the intent of sharing business or other value. When considering your own network’s value, rather than scoring based on numbers, measure the strength of your connections by the quality of the relationships. The ultimate goal of a professional network is to cultivate a community of people you respect and for whom your goal is to bring value, and vice versa. Here are five tips to ensure that you are building meaningful connections with your professional networks.

  1. Give before you get. Asking yourself how you can help those in your network is a far better starting point than asking how they can help you. Studies show that someone is more likely to offer you assistance in a time of need if you’ve previously assisted them with something, which makes sense – even if you’ve only helped them with something minor.
  2. Nurture your network. Building and sustaining a quality network takes time. Your connections can only be as strong as the time you invest, so set a personal goal to reconnect with 3-5 members of your network each week. Whether by phone call, a handwritten note or an email, if you are in regular conversation with your network, the more rapport you build, and the more likely they are to be there when you need them.
  3. Pause before you connect. Don’t automatically connect with anyone who reaches out to you. Those in your network are reflectors of your personal brand, and those you seek out may look at your connections as representations of you. So choose connections who match your personal and business values.
  4. Find common ground. Relationships blossom when you find places of commonality. When forging a new relationship or nurturing an old one, a natural place to start and build from is by talking about things you have in common, such as work, a mutual acquaintance, similar passion or hobby you both enjoy.
  5. Build a diverse network. Wide-reaching networks can be powerful. Look for people with diverse skills and backgrounds to include in your network.

Whether you are just starting to establish your professional network or nurturing one you’ve had growing for years, these tips for building strong personal connections can prove fruitful. Which tip will you try this week?

CTU Staff - David BarnettDave Barnett has over 15 years of experience in leadership development and customer service. In his role as Vice President of Student Experience at CTU, Dave is responsible for ensuring that all CTU students have a remarkable and memorable university experience. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn.

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Image credit: Flickr/greekadman