Let’s face it, networking is not everyone’s cup of tea. Mention the word and we all shudder a little on the inside. Still we find ourselves building networks at work, socially, and personally – intentionally or unintentionally.
Why is having a strong network important? According to a research conducted by sociologist, Mark Granovetter, we tend to find new career opportunities through our weaker ties or acquaintances rather than through our closer circles who most likely know the same people as you.
Acquaintances are people we meet in passing and they are not in similar social circles as you hence they may be the ticket to a whole new social network. However, most of us are creatures of habit, preferring to stay close to the things or people that we are familiar with.
In her article “3 practically painless ways to expand your network”, Associate Professor Tanya Menon, shares three easy strategies to expand your social circles. Here’s how:
Challenge Your Social Filters- Be Friends With People You Won’t Normally Hang Out With.
Our daily lives are pretty much routine. We take the same route to work, park at the same spot, eat at the same places, and go to the same after-work hang out spots; where we meet the same people who are also following their routine.
Changing up our usual routine by doing something or going somewhere different may help us encounter new faces. When meeting new people, do remember challenge your own mental filters!
When we meet someone new, we tend to look at them and decide “You’re interesting” or “You’re not interesting” or “You’re relevant” or “You’re not relevant.”
Try to force yourself to connect with those you don’t want to connect because you find them uninteresting, in your opinion. It would be uncomfortable at the beginning but you may be surprised by how well you may connect over a cup of coffee or a meal. Voila! Your social network widens a little.
Don’t limit yourself- Don’t be afraid to reach out to those beyond your inner circle.
When we find ourselves in a low point in life either from a job loss, a missed career opportunity, or a stressful situation; it is hard reach out to our network for help. We mentally compress our networks, closing and isolating ourselves creating a huge blind spot where we can’t see our resources, allies and opportunities.
To overcome this, the author suggests to go down your lists of Facebook friends and LinkedIn friends, and most likely you’ll see people who are in your network but who may not automatically come to your mind when you’re feeling threatened or down.
The author found in her research “that hat people were more likely to avoid advice from those they were close to because they felt envious of them or threatened by them, and they were more likely to accept advice from outsiders because they were viewed as less threatening.”
Remember your “Thank Yous” and “Your Welcome”– It is not just etiquette, it strengthens relationships.
Whenever you helped out a colleague, a business partner, or a client and they thanked you, besides your usual “You’re welcome” or “No problem” or “Np” or “No worries,” did you say anything else? If not, you’ve missed an opportunity to reinforce ties with others.
Robert Cialdini, a persuasion theorists, suggests saying “I know you’d do the same for me” after “You’re welcome,” which can serve as a subtle reminder that you might ask for a favor in the future.
Similarly, when someone recently did something for you, did you just reply with a “Thank you,” “thx” or “ty”? Next time, say “Let me know if I can ever help you” or “I look forward to collaborating again.” When you do that, you are quietly acknowledging the transaction that has taken place between you two. These expressions can help smooth an interaction — they’re respectful of the other person’s humanity and signal your openness to continue the exchange.
After someone has, for instance, given you an informational interview or had coffee with you, go beyond “thanks” — find a way that you can be useful to them, now or later.
Being able to recognise the resources you have in others and the resources you can give to others will help you be a better networker.
It takes little time or effort to be more intentional about broadening and deepening your social ties but will be very beneficial to you in the long run.