Why Your Network Probably Stinks

networking event follow up

It’s not how many people you know, it’s about the types of people you know

Accumulating connections on LinkedIn, or friends on Facebook, is often done without purpose or intention – and that is a big mistake, and worse yet, a waste of your precious time.

The race to a certain number of connections is a false goal because the cumulative number isn’t what benefits you, it’s the relationship formed with the right connections.

Same thing applies with networking, either digitally or in person, it’s not about just knowing people, it’s about knowing the right assortment of people. If you’re the type whose professional network consists of people just like you, in the same professional lane, your network stinks.

We’ve identified the 5 types of people you should have in your network, after you read this article it’s time for some self-analysis to make sure you have a network that doesn’t stink.

#1 Elder Statesman (or Stateswoman)

Experience counts. Having connections that are currently occupying a space you dream of being, is a huge benefit.

Their purpose in your network is two-fold:

  1. They can act as a mentor to help you learn from mistakes they’ve made over their career, while also being a highly educated and experienced sounding board for your questions
  2. They have more connections on the executive level than you do – prove to them you are worthy and they can streamline your resume right to someone’s desk, instead of the virtual pile

#2 A Connector (or ten)

I’ve got this friend, let’s call him Stan, and he is a born-connector.

Everyone who knows Stan affectionately refers to him as the “Godfather” – he knows everyone, from local Pancake restaurant owners to Microsoft executives.

If you’ve met Stan you remember him because he makes you feel warm and welcome and he always wants to chat. Like, really chat, the honest listen with your whole body, laugh at all the right jokes, never step on your words and always make eye contact type.

Stan is awesome.

Tell Stan you’re looking for a connection at company X and stand back as he goes through his mental rolodex full of High School classmates, former colleagues and people he started chatting up at a business conference in Topeka back in ’06.

Everybody needs a Stan (or ten).

#3 Big Thinkers

All too often we as a society gravitate to people on par with ourselves.

It’s comfortable to discuss, complain or just empathize with someone going through the same things as you are. The problem with having too many like-minded people in your network is that you will begin to feed off of each other’s disappointments.

One person complains how hard the job market is, and the other begins to eat the rhetoric up like a Five Guys Burger and Fries (mmmm…burgers).

You need big thinkers in your world – someone who approaches problems differently, who challenges your thoughts and common conventions and isn’t afraid to be contrarian.

This person keeps you sharp and doesn’t let you fall into chasms of self-pity or blamer mentality. Also, they tend to have connections far outside your normal circle which is a very positive thing.

#4 An Insider

Some people are just better at getting information than you are – maybe it’s because they spend their downtime reading the industry trades while you surf ESPN.com (which is what I do too, so don’t read that as judgmental).

Insiders are important because they know the industry players before they become players, they see the employment trends as they begin to shift and they know about rumored mergers and acquisitions.

All of these things are important to your outlook, and that is why insiders are an essential part of your network.

#5 Realists

Big thinkers are important as we outlined above, but you also need some people that will pull your balloon down from outer space.

Realists keep you from wasting too much time with your head in the sky and aren’t afraid to be honest about your shortcomings. When you start complaining about your lack of employment or how terrible your boss is. Realists are the ones that will tell you: “Maybe it’s not them, it’s you.”

Final Thought

Get these five categories of people in your network and you’ll be in a better place, connected to many different types of personas instead of surrounding yourself with a bunch of one-noters.

Remember, it’s not about the numbers of connections you have – it’s about the right connections.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


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