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What Should My Network Look Like?

Written by: Bill Sherman on Saturday, 28 June 2008, 4:21 PM

I’ve recently been doing a lot of reading about social capital, and I came across a very thought-provoking quote.

Every kind of network can be found among any group of managers, but only certain kinds of networks contribute to early promotion for certain kinds of managers. (Burt, Ronald. Structural Holes. Harvard UP: 1992.)

Burt’s quote comes from the conclusions of a study of 3,303 managers (below VP level) within a company that employed over 100,000 people at the time. While there were many different network structures used by the managers–some of them clearly favored success while others delayed success. But, no plan was a “sure-fire” winner for everyone. You had to match your situation and goals with your network approach.

Perhaps you’ve heard the quote by Tim Sanders, “Your network is your net worth.” Many people try the shotgun approach. They give business cards to everyone, and they collect thousands of LinkedIn connections. That approach doesn’t work. You never get to know these contacts with any depth (forget about trying to be relevant).

So, how do you build a network of people that allows you to create powerful leverage? What strategies do people use, and which one will be best for you? That’s the question that’s been fascinating me for the past few years, and I’ve been researching the answers.

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