As I sit in the office on a Wednesday afternoon and see my phone ring only to discover it is the same person who calls me only when they want something, I politely send the call to my voicemail abyss never to be returned. Why is it that I won’t take this person’s call, but I’ll take others’ calls when I think they might want something too? It is very simple… because the others have opened their network to me in the past and I’m happy to reciprocate (this will be an important word later). But the one-sided individual who has no network, or at least has never opened it up to me in the past…? No thank you.
Your network is one of the most, if not the most, valuable resource you can earn… both personally and professionally. This is social and professional currency and just like your paycheck, you must work hard to earn, budget and spend it wisely because no matter how big your “network check” is, you still have a finite amount and you must get the most value you can from of it. So, let’s dig into the earn, budget and spend…
Earn: Everyone works on building their network to a comfortable extent, but the biggest problem I see in the build, or “earn,” process is that it is very linear. What I mean by that is it is very comfortable to build your network with people who are very similar to you in what they do, where they live, what their hobbies are, etc. The real value in building a network however is the breadth of your network. For example, could you refer a friend or client to someone who would reach out to thank you? Living by the credo “treat the janitor just like the CEO” will help the breadth of your network and could open doors you didn’t know existed.
Budget: You only have so many network resources, so it is important to understand how much you have and where to allocate them. Just like actual currency, if you spend too quickly and in the wrong areas, you will eventually run up against a shortfall. It is imperative to be thoughtful and deliberate as to WHERE you deploy your network currency to maximize the value. It is really resource alignment and understanding as to who needs what, and to what extent your network can help.
Spend: This is the fun part. This is where you can connect others to someone within your network, see them benefit and allow the law of reciprocity to germinate. This law is one of the most powerful forces (although maybe not as powerful as compounding!) we as humans know. So… while the “spend” is the more enjoyable part of having a network, it is also the most critical. Like your fiscal compensation, it is important to spend wisely, in the appropriate amount, and not over-pay for something you might not actually need.
To conclude, when you want, or need something from someone, be sure that you are not that Wednesday afternoon call that is never returned. Build broadly, budget appropriately, spend wisely and always be able to put a value on what your “net” is worth!
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