There may be times when you feel stuck. Sometimes you’re missing a vital piece of the puzzle. Sometimes you’re just having a bad day and need a little help. Well think positive; that’s what your network is for.
So what is it? Put simply, your network is everyone you know: friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, clients, neighbours, and so on. With some, the connection is strong and reinforced every day; with others, you may not have spoken for years but the connection (however tenuous) can still be there.
It’s a cliché – but true – that everybody is different and everyone in your network will have a different set of skills and knowledge and attitudes. When you need something that you can’t provide for yourself, someone in your network might be able to help. Likewise, when they need something, you might be able to help them (a true network is two-way; symbiotic not parasitic.) Also, everyone in your network has a network of their own. So even if no-one has what you need, they may know someone that does and be willing to connect the two of you. This has the double benefit of you getting what you need and also expanding your network.
Your network can provide you with advice, feedback, support and encouragement, new skills, contacts and opportunities. Although it is worth remembering that not everyone you know will be helpful in every circumstance. Some members of your network may waste your time, reduce your confidence, criticise you or resent you. So part of the art of active and conscious networking is to make decisions about who you keep in your network and to whom you reach out (whether to ask for or to offer help.)
So how do you extend your network? Making new friends, joining classes, clubs or professional associations through your work; all these can bring you into contact with potentially like-minded people. The more people in your network, the more options you have. But don’t forget that your connections require maintenance. It is much more difficult to ask favours of (or offer help to) somebody if you haven’t communicated with them for years. A good network has connections that are strengthened by frequent contact.
The internet, of course, contains many ways of creating contact: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are well-known, but how about LinkedIn for business networking or Delicious for bookmark sharing? Why not start a blog or a YouTube channel and share your expertise – whatever it may be – with the world? There is plenty of online advice and articles on how to use these sites and services for your benefit; either personal or business.
Finally, don’t forget that for everyone you know, you are part of their network too and you will find that the more you think positive then the more valued a network member you are.
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