Healthy Networks are Broad Networks
30 September 2019
In my last blog post I wrote about conducting an audit on your professional network. I hope you made some time to do this and grew your insight into the health of your network.
The audit would have given you a way to look at the breadth, connectivity, and dynamism of your network. That is, how diverse your network is, how well your network helps you connect people and groups that wouldn’t normally connect, and how well your network evolves and is future focused in line with how you are evolving. Breadth, Connectivity, and Dynamism are hallmarks of a healthy professional network, and in this blog article I want to focus in on creating healthy diversity in the breadth of your professional network.
The typical way in which a professional network lacks breadth is when it is a network comprised primarily of people from within your own organisation. Equally, though, you don’t want your network to only be outside of your own area. Warning bells about the breadth of your network should also be sounded when you see that your key relationships are all with peers or those higher than you, lacking in relationships with junior people, or when it is largely skewed to a predominant gender, or lacking in other diversity measures.
Go back to your Network Audit now and examine it for its breadth of diversity (question 6), identifying where you have gaps. Then keep this information front of mind as you go about your work. A diversity of people cross our paths on an ongoing basis, but without knowledge of the gaps in the breadth of our networks most of us let the richly diverse contacts pass us by. Don’t. Suggest a coffee, or reach out with a compliment or a piece of information, or offer a favour, be generous.
Generosity is a key marker of a flourishing career. Having a broad network means you will bring new ideas and resources to those people you interact with, rather than only being caught in an echo chamber of information that everyone knows anyway. And the more ideas you bring to your network the more they will bring to you – think about that blog post someone shared with you that linked you to information you needed, or the idea you heard about from a contact in your network that you raised in a meeting, or the job you shared into your network that made its way to a great candidate. This healthy flow of ideas is not only valuable to your employer it also keeps you creative and engaged with your job and your career.
An increasing trend I am seeing is that employers are interested in understanding the networks that people bring as potential new employees. In many industries the breadth of your network makes you more valuable and is something to sell as part of a recruitment process.
A broad network won’t grow by itself. Our natural bias is towards people who are similar to ourselves and this works against having a broad network. You have to make an intentional effort – your career with thank you.
As always wishing you a flourishing career.