What is a Personal Network?
I know for sure that you have already a personal network. Everyone has it. Nobody can live without it.
You have been born with the core of a personal network, which was your relationship with your Mama. Hopefully it has expanded quickly, to include your father, your siblings, later other children from your neighbourhood, from kindergarten and from school.
Probably you added some mentors or trainers. Maybe you joined a sports team, or you volunteered for some community work. So your network kept growing.
As a result, your personal network with 20 years was already quite big. But the size of the network is not the only metric, which matters. More important is the quality of your relationships. And this is defined by two attributes:
- What kind of people are included in your network?
- Can they help?
- Do they want to see you grow and fulfill your potential?
- Are some of them trying to keep you down?
- How reliable are the relationships?
It is fair to say that much of your network at the beginning of your adult life comes from your family and the social environment where you grew up. I think this explains more than anything else the correlation between social background and success in school, university and work.
Your Network Evolves with Your Personality
But your social background at the start of your life is not a verdict about success or failure in your life, nor about the social status you can attain. You do evolve, and so do your relationships with other people.
Both evolve in many ways and all the time – to the better or to the worse. So, you better find a way to manage yourself and your network. This means applying a conscious effort to nurture a meaningful personal network. As a starting point, you must understand your needs and set the direction you want to take. You need clarity about your current network, and the changes you want.
What do We Expect from Networking?
Networking means giving and taking. We offer our help, and we accept gracefully, what others have to offer.
Here is a short list of the benefits a healthy network can provide:
- Timely access to specific information
- Sharing sensitive information
- Validating critical information
- Discussing problems frankly and asking for advice
- Strengthening credibility through references
- Opening doors through references
What we Can’t Tolerate in Our Personal Network
There are certain behaviours, which will load a network with bad energy. If such behaviours and their bad energy take hold, this network will not help you. To the contrary, such a network will soak up all energy and fill your days with anger and grievances.
Avoid persons, who
- Put others down
- Play people against each other
How to Lock Bad People out of Your Personal Network
We cannot tolerate bad behaviour in our personal network. This means first and foremost that we ourselves don’t talk bad about others or place obstacles in their way or try to prevent them from growing. We do not talk behind people’s back and we do not spread half-truths or lies about others. We are aware that even the truth might hurt, and handle truth with empathy. And certainly, we don’t play people against each other.
That said, we certainly must remove persons from our personal network, who try to put others down instead of helping them up. They generate on their way a lot of bad energy and make everybody else miserable.
I suggest to remove, if needed, a person from your network without Pomp and circumstance. Just make sure to become less and less visible for him or her, so that the person in question forgets you slowly but surely.
If someone really attacks your reputation with half-truths and lies, you must fight and stop him. But it is generally better to let bad people forget you, and not to attract them in the first place.
How to Add the Right People to Your Personal Network
Although this is not a networking guide, here are some steps you can follow to grow your personal relationships:
You meet so many people in life. You meet them through your family, at school, at work, through volunteering activities. So, why not keeping your eyes open. There are certainly some people hiding inside the crowd, who would perfectly fit into your personal network.
First and foremost, watch always out for those diamonds. If you walk blindly, of course you will not find them. If you see someone, who might be a fit, have a closer look at him, and make yourself visible. Accept helpful offers and show your appreciation. If you have something which might be valuable for the other, let him know. This does not mean you should give everything for free away. After all, selling and buying turn in the end out to be special forms of networking.
Try to understand, what drives people around you, and what is important to them. This helps, when deciding, if you want to connect to a person. And it helps you to realise, that you have something in your hand, which is highly valuable to another person.
This is not a one-way street: You also should allow people, who have raised your interest, to get an idea who you are.
Obviously, this is a gradual process. But the process might be, according to the preferences of the persons involved, and the environment where it happens, very slow or rather quick.
Here is a book on the topic. It is fun to read, and a good starting point to learn networking:
Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Devora Zack. You find a link to the book in the show notes.
Networking in a Professional Environment
You meet many people through your work. There might be some highly skilled people, willing to share part of their art. Then there may be some professionals, who like to compare notes and look for advice. Help them to solve their problem. As a by-product you create awareness and build relationships.
Personal Network in a Nutshell
It is now time to come to an end. So let me emphasise the main points. They are three:
- Don’t let the wind decide, whom to invite into your personal network.
- Walk with open eyes through your life, look for the right people and allow them in.
- And last, but not least: keep the destructive and bad guys out.
Episode 6 will be available by the end of August. The topic will be: How to leverage your skill, and why this is a must.