Anyone familiar with the concept of networking has probably heard this phrase at some point: Your network is your net worth. With millions of repetitions all across the web, this statement goes unquestioned. It’s taken by most readers to be cold, hard fact.
Here’s the problem: It isn’t.
Most articles on this topic maintain that modern-day technology has given our networking skills a boost. It has accelerated the rate at which we make new contacts, and made people happier in general. We typically gauge the size of our network by adding up our connections across social media and professional networking sites. Hundreds of Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections (this user, Steven Burda, had over 50,000 connections) are now commonplace. Are we a more networked and a happier bunch of people?
Perhaps not. How many of those people do we talk to regularly? How many have we actually met in the last two years? The answer, probably, is not many. Networking was once about having friendly relations everywhere, but our definition of the term has changed, and not in a good way. Gathering an army of online followers is one thing but staying in touch with them is quite another! Some of these ‘connections’ may not even acknowledge us if we were to reach out to them in times of need.
In an age of freely accessible information, meaningful networking with a plethora of diverse individuals is becoming more of a necessity than an option. Large employers increasingly prefer to hire through existing contacts instead of looking at the job market, as it saves them time and money. In fact, it’s estimated that around 85% of jobs are not advertised anywhere! Also, an employer can simply browse through LinkedIn profiles and hunt for better people to re-shuffle their existing employees. Job security is wafer thin compared to, say, a decade ago. In times like these it isn’t enough to add a bunch of barely-known people on a professional network and sit back.
In the book Your Network Is Your Net Worth, the author, Porter Gale, speculates that the Internet has made obsolete the old ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ theory. We are now separated from a randomly picked individual by just four degrees of separation. Her theory goes on to say that on a community level (like dog owners), we are separated by three degrees. On a niche level (like Lego Star Wars collectors), only two degrees of separation divide us. Realizing these connections, however, is not an easy task.
The lesson here is that your network is not your net worth. It’s the quality of your network that is important. When networking, one must place more weight on human interaction and less on accepting requests from vaguely remembered contacts. Just one sincere and relevant real-life relationship can have a bigger impact on a person’s professional and personal growth than a hundred online connections. The challenge lies in finding the right people to build such relationships with.
Go ahead, take the challenge and open up possibilities.
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