Do you know the so-called little world phenomenon? According to this theory, we statistically know every person in the world through six contacts. So why don’t we use this opportunity for our professional career?
Networking is far too often underestimated
Herminia Ibarra, Professor of Organizational Behavior, Leadership and Learning at the INSEAD Business School, has been working on the networking phenomenon for many years – with very interesting results. One of the most important ones in advance: executives and those who want to become one, underestimate the power of the professional network and thus miss big opportunities. But there is no need to.
The different types of networking
Ibarra distinguishes three different types of networks that can help us each in ovur career in a different way.
1. Operational Networks: We need those kind of networks for our daily tasks. Thus in these networks we gather the people we need for our daily workload.
2. Personal networks: They relate more to people outside our professional environment. But these are especially important if we want to further our career. Because these people have an objective view of our career and our everyday work and can judge both in a completely different way. In addition, as outsiders, they may even have good tips that we would not come up with since we are too involved in our work.
3. Strategic Networks: They can help us to improve our position in the company by making our potential more visible to those responsible. Many mid-level promotions and freelance assignments are also based on the client’s assuming that the candidate will perform certain tasks, Ibarra said. Positioning ourselves this way is the task of the strategic network. People in the strategic network do not necessarily have to be part of the company itself. They are best described as mentors. They should show us how we can contribute our ideas in the best possible way and thus ensure that we get the attention of the decision-makers.
The different networks play together
In operational networks, we focus on everyday work processes. So sometimes, strategic decisions can get out of sight. But these are especially important if you want to identify developments in the company at an early stage – which is especially important for freelancers who want to work long-term with a client.
How to become a good networker
With so many positive features of networking, you probably want to master the task as quickly as possible. It’s not as difficult as you might think, but even networking starts with the first step.
First Step: Overcome your shyness and be brave! Networking can be a real challenge, especially for shy people. But that should not be an excuse: If you want to be successful, you need a large network. Our tip: Start in an environment in which you feel particularly comfortable. This can be a common interest group or the gym. If you realize that it is not that hard to make new contacts you can use your new self-confidence to make contacts outside your comfort zone, as well.
Second Step: Make time to network daily. Set yourself a certain amount of time each day in your schedule. By the way, this is also possible in digital channels such as Xing and LinkedIn. Here you can also connect with us to stay up to date on current information and projects.
Third step: Never underestimate the power of networking! Even small steps can have a huge impact. This includes informal meetings as well as small talk. It is important to continuously maintain your network and seize every opportunity to make new contacts.