Need to know… developing your network

Have you ever noticed that some people do a great job but get less reward and recognition than others? It has been suggested that when it comes to promotion decisions in organisations, performance contributes as little as 10% to the decision – it may be a qualifying condition, but it is rarely the clincher. A further 30% of the decision is based on image and style – whether you look the part and fit with the organisation. The remaining 60% of the decision is based on visibility – who you know and who knows you. In other words, your network. Yet many of us feel that networking is a mercenary activity and avoid it. But if these statistics are even close to accurate, we do so at our career peril.

It may seem unfair that promotions go to those who play politics and use others to get themselves ahead, but in reality it doesn’t work that way. Most people can spot an insincere networker a mile off and will have as little to do with them as possible. A network full of people with a negative impression of you is less of an asset than no network at all. The people who network best with others think far less about what benefits their network is going to give them than they do about how they can contribute to others and use their connections to create opportunities for the business and its clients. It might be useful to take time to explore your own attitudes to networking and whether these are causing you to shy away from building your personal connections with others. How might it be helpful for you to change the way you think about networking?

It can be useful to take stock of your network from time to time. Who do you know really well and get along with? Who do you know less well, but would like to know better? Who have you lost touch with? Who should you know, but don’t yet? Who would you love to meet? Who do you want to have less to do with in the future? What does this suggest you might want to do about the people in your network? Think of some ways in which you could benefit some of them – for example, by introducing them to each other for their mutual benefit. Finally, be willing to use your network yourself when you need it. If you have been sincere and generous in how you have built and maintained these connections, people will be eager to repay you if they can.

How do you develop your network?

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