Building networks - leadership skill
In fact it’s more important than that. Lynda Gratton, of the London Business School, says “building networks, especially those outside the organisation will be another key leadership skill”.
We used to do our ‘schmoozing’ face-to-face but these days social networking sites are what we use to foster collaboration, within the company, and well beyond. A good networker juggles a diverse range of knowledge flows and hones their own competitive position by doing so.
The value of social networks lies in helping us make better connections with each other, so building reciprocal relationships that enhance knowledge flow and innovation.
Bad news for the competitive types - it’s not about how many followers you have on Twitter or how many connections you have on LinkedIn. You have to create value for your network so that later you get something back.
Gratton calls this a 'cloud of acquaintances'. She says: "This network is a ‘community of practice’ in the sense that it has been built around a common shared interest or experience”. We like that feeling of community, which is what social networking is about, sharing information and feeling that you've garnered some insight from a friend rather than a search engine.
Of course it’s much easier to measure the number of your connections than to quantify their value. But being connected to 300 or 700 people isn’t much use if they’re not people who want to engage with you. They’ll want to engage if you are creating value for them; it’s a quid pro quo, the classic pay back scenario. Value is subjective of course but social networking sites can be amazingly useful both in professional personal terms.
In terms of the job search your extended network acts as your online eyes and ears. If you are good at networking then you use this to find new opportunities, information and contacts that could benefit you. This works best if people know what you’re likely to be looking for. One good contact is all it takes.
So good networkers trade information and offer advice and expertise, the sort of information that is usually something you have not already thought of. They give you leads and they introduce you to their contacts because they take pleasure in being a conduit. It’s a bit like a marriage broker; they like to bring people together. They like to see others benefit from what they have done.
Weak tie networking
LinkedIn is fertile ground for the job seeker so work your network, strengthen and expand it. Concentrate on people you need to get to know better. The value of weak ties has a theoretical base in social theory.
In 1973, Mark Granovetter published The Strength of Weak. When the author looked at how people find jobs, he discovered that it is not through strong ties but rather through weak ties, i.e., it seems people did better with those they didn't know very well. Why? Because those they knew tended to be ‘like them’, to share the same networks and to be exposed to the same experiences.
People you don't know so well have different networks and are exposed to different opportunities and can introduce you to new contacts.
Raising your profile
There’s a lot of hype around social media but LinkedIn is increasingly used as a recruitment tool by corporate and agency recruiters. Not just for back office jobs but for high profile, big ticket roles as well. To get the best from LinkedIn you need to explore beyond your own profile and connections list.
Check out the groups, there are probably at least a dozen that cover business topics you are interested in and even more that cover your social interests. Check the events pages too. Put up some recommendations for colleagues, Keep your profile up-to-date, and spend time each week updating your page and your connections.
Put a link to your profile in your email signature block. If you are thinking about freelance or contract work, starting up your own enterprise or adding to your portfolio of roles you can use LinkedIn as a business tool.
Here’s some really good news, Fowler and Christakis found that happiness tends to be correlated in social networks. When a person is happy, nearby friends have a 25% higher chance of being happy too. People at the centre of a social network tend to become happier than those at the periphery.
Clusters of happy and unhappy people were discerned within the studied networks, within a reach of three degrees of separation: a person's happiness was associated with the level of happiness of their friends' friends' friends.