We are often told that networking can make the difference in our careers. And many of us have thought, at one time or another, that we should be doing more of it. However, while networking is indeed a powerful tool, when it comes to networking, more is not always better.
According to research noted in the HBR article A Smarter Way to Network by Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas, “individuals who simply know a lot of people are actually less likely to achieve standout performance because they’re spread too thin.” This rings true in real life. Keeping in touch with connections is work. Constantly checking in with people and getting to know more and more people is time that could be spent on other productive projects.
So does this mean that networking isn’t worth the work? Of course not. What Cross and Thomas point out is that it’s not about knowing lots of people; it's about knowing the right people. Successful networks should challenge you and provide diversity of thought.
Knowing lots of people giving you the same information is not necessarily useful. What is useful is having a diverse set of contacts that can give you varying perspectives.
A diverse network beats out dense, homogenous networks as they are much better for both fostering new ideas as well as providing a healthy criticism to ideas that may not hold up. That diversity of opinion can help you sift the good ideas from the bad.
When thinking about the next person that you want to add to your personal or professional network, think about what value they bring to you. Does this new person offer a different viewpoint or perspective than your own? Is this person someone who will challenge you, or will they merely feed the biases you already have?
–By Braden Walden. Walden is a current MBA candidate set to graduate in 2021. Originally from Chicago, he has lived in New York, Seoul, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Following graduation, Walden is set to start a new career at Navy Federal Credit Union.
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