Sparking Conversations, Tracking Results

Know Your Network Types

If the point of unraveling is to discover, I believe the #UnraveledNetwork series by Pollen Midwest achieved their goal. Part 1 took place early November 2014 (see the recap here), followed by Part 2 on January 28, 2015.

Part 1 featured keynote speaker Marcia Ballinger, author of 20-Minute Networking Meeting; clever attendee networking icebreakers among round tables, and an intro to the networking study in process by The Carlson School of Management. Part 2, in classroom style, featured findings of the network study and two speakers who posed ideas about storytelling and the role of a mentor.

Networking experts and seminars focused on the tactics of online networking all start with the assumption that we want to and need to be connected for our personal and professional growth. They may focus on quantity of people you’re connected with or create a sense of urgency that you need to dedicate a lot more time for networking in-person and online via social media or you’ll be left out of important conversations or suffer a stagnant career.

Unraveled Stage is Set
Unraveled Stage is Set

The Carlson networking study, unveiled at the January 28 Unraveled Networks Part 2 event, looked at networking on a holistic level from 106 survey participants. The survey took 30-40 minutes to complete and included Unraveled Network participants and professionals employed in many different companies, industries, and functions in the Twin Cities area. Seventy-seven percent of the survey respondents were women.On the flip side, #UnraveledNetwork and additional conversations about networking lately have been more about quality networking. They describe the purposes and types of networking. They touch on integrating social media, research and interpersonal skills so that each person can create their own intentional approach regardless of where you fall on the introvert to extrovert scale.

Researcher Patricia Dahm cited correlations between people’s work behaviors, career successes and their overall wellbeing. She broke networking down into three deliberate categories: personal, operational and strategic. She also suggested that you are divided among networking modes of building, maintaining and using based on your current work environment and where you’re at in your career.

Network Types

Your Personal Network
This network is all about your personal and professional development long-term. This group generally includes your mentors, mentees and close contacts who know you on more of a personal level. This group is your go-to for career advice and asking those difficult questions – is this career move really right for you? Are you going to be fulfilled in this new role or is it a derailing your long-term goals?

This network is typically smaller on average, but critical. If you don’t have a mentor, get one. If you’re at a point in your career where you can mentor, seek out that opportunity. Pay it forward.

Your Operational Network
This network is all about getting your current work done efficiently. This group is comprised of the immediate and daily people involved in your work like your boss, co-workers and outside vendors. For people within larger companies this network was broad and deep within their own organizations. For entrepreneurs, they logged fewer connections in their operational network and skewed more toward strategic.

The size of this group varies greatly for each individual, but for survey respondents it was the smallest of the three. On the topic of operational networks, an attendee asked which network type would be appropriate for past co-workers. No doubt they may know you well, but when they move out of your operational network, they either move to your personal or strategic network or go untapped.

Your Strategic Network
This network is futuristic, external and diverse. It’s closely aligned with innovation and career growth and potentially the most challenging of the three to build, maintain and use. It includes people outside of your current company, in different industries that might be tangentially related to your interests and even your competition. The Carlson study showed that people surveyed had the most people in their strategic network, followed by personal and then operational.

Research Findings
Patricia gave the survey group kudos for being highly strategically networked and savvy on social media for networking purposes. She also pointed out five key correlations the study uncovered:

  1. People who build large and diverse operational and strategic networks tend to get promoted and advance more quickly career-wise
  2. People who work outside of a company office are apt to have a more diverse network (my shameless plug for #coworking as in @CoCoMSPhere)
  3. People who value their own personal development have more diverse network and higher career aspirations
  4. People who have more emotional support have increasingly higher status contacts in their network
  5. People with more diverse networks enjoyed less relaxation

Networking Purposes
The next segment of the program moved from networking types into networking purposes including: building, maintaining and using. These distinctions are important as people evaluate what they need to do in each of their strategic and operational networks to keep them in balance based on where they’re at in their career.

Pollenite Mehgan Murphy kicked of this portion with a talk-show style conversation with D.A. Bullock, owner of Bully Creative. D. A. shared a divergent idea that I’ve not come across in previous seminars that address professional networking – just tell your story.

In his craft, he expertly draws out people’s stories by being his be relatable, inquisitive, human and authentic self. In response to an audience question about his approach in interviewing he says it is planned and organic and 100% of both. He talked about breaking down barriers like professional walls we put up to get to know someone’s true story. Things like elevator pitches? They need to be tossed he says. Deeper connections allow more meaningful ways to pursue your personal interests and causes and better connect to the world.

Maintaining and Using
Next up, Pollenite Jamie Millard brought Lynn Casey, networker extraordinaire andPadilla CRT CEO, to the stage. Lynn talked about ways she’s maintained and used her network in her career to-date. She goes to lunch with her long-term mentor annually, just to catch up. She mentors with an inquisitive mind. When she gets a padded answer, she keeps probing like a journalist who continues to ask why until they get the full story.

And while she knows that time is finite and she admittedly may not have enough if it to respond to all of the business cards in her top desk drawer, she offers this: Be present in the moment. Even if it’s only a 10 minute moment.

Wendy Blomseth, Susan Scofield and Jennifer Gilhoi after the event.
Maintaining with Wendy and Building with Susan after the event

Series Recap

We took in a lot of information over the course of the Unraveled Network. Now, as survey respondents evaluate their results and see where they fall among their fellow networkers, we’ll continue to learn, apply and be deliberate about our networking. The series offered some tactical groundwork for networking and some relief that it can be intentional, productive and not as time consuming as it’s been in the past.

In future posts, I’ll be exploring how to apply this learning and the quantity vs. quality of networking. Connections need to have a certain level of depth to have long-term meaning. As D.A. mentioned, “Social media is a starting point. It can only take us so far. We still have to do the rest.”

Pollenites, what other nuggets did you walk away with? Please share your insight in the process of raveling your networking.

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