Success: Is it All About WHO You Know?

Mary Rosenbaum | May 22nd, 2012

Is it all about WHO you know and not WHAT you know? The answer is yes and no. WHO you know can help get you in the running for that promotion, that job, that piece of new business. WHAT you know will help you turn possibilities into reality.

Studies over the past couple of years have proven that larger, diversified networks have a significant impact on your career and your earning capability. The relationship between network size, quality and expected wages is positive. The results of studies over the past 20 years reinforce the fact that wage rates of the most well connected are 15% to 25% higher than those with few connections.

The importance of growing your network cannot be overstated. But the value of your network lies not solely in the numbers. The quality of its members is a vital component. Two of my past posts focused on growing your network and building your tribe. But what about the quality of your network?

Your network consists of two categories of members: those with whom you have close ties and those with weak ties.

Close ties are those relationships where people know you well and understand what you do. You already know many of their contacts and the type of information they can provide. Generally, you travel in the same circles, belong to many of the same social groups, and may even work in the same company or industry.

Weak ties are the opposite. You know them but are not close. You don’t travel in all the same circles therefore you are not familiar with their networks. Because they are not in your immediate circle, they have information and contacts that may prove to be valuable for you, your career and your business. In fact, it’s through weak ties that the majority of leads are disseminated regarding employment and business opportunities. In short, weak ties enable you to reach populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties.

Not to confuse things but “followers” on social media networks do not generally fall into the category of weak ties. Although the broad definition of weak ties may fit, you still have to have some form of relationship built on trust, contact, or experience in order for there to be any form of information and contact sharing that extends beyond the superficial. Unless you build a relationship beyond 140 characters your followers cannot be considered weak ties.

What can you do to increase your network in a purposeful way?

First and foremost, ensure that you continue to deepen your close relationships so that you can each act as brand ambassadors for the other. Although they may have more limited resources to share it’s always valuable to have people who are “in your corner.” Their role as advisors, supporters, and cheerleaders is vital to maintaining your confidence and continued professional growth.

To grow your network of weak ties, seek out opportunities where you can meet people from different backgrounds:

- join organizations not related to what you do

- volunteer at nonprofits outside your immediate community

- keep in touch with former colleagues since their network will be different once they leave

- strengthen relationships with “followers” and LinkedIn connections so there can be more meaningful reciprocity in sharing information and contacts

- attend events that interest you and are outside your immediate sphere of influence

- take new classes and expand your horizons

Grow WHO you know with purpose so you can showcase WHAT you know.

What other ways do you grow your network?

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