It’s everywhere. Fake news. Fake news about fake news. Real news that sounds fake. Fake news that sounds really truthy… Whatever you want to call it, fake news about everything is everywhere: Including Professional Networks. I’m here to bring you some real truth, as in backed by science and data and things that you, too, can find and prove. Here are the top 4 fake news points about Professional Networks and the truths as they should be.
Fake News 1 – There is no point in working on your professional network because it’s all fate.
Professional Networking Truth 1 – Your professional network in the number one indicator of career success. In fact, just LEARNING about effective professional networks can boost your performance. Professionals who spend time learning about what makes an effective network are:
Fake News 2 – A professional network is basically your social network.
Professional Networking Truth 2 – Your professional network differs from your social network in that it consists of the relationships that impact your career, NOT the parents on your kid’s soccer team, or a rolodex of names on your desk (are rolodexes even still a thing?). For example, your peers, advisors, mentors, direct reports and work friends are all in your professional network (even if you don’t like them). It may also include family or friends if they’re critical to your work success, but your great Aunt Edna who always shares cat memes, is most likely NOT in your professional network. But who knows. 2021 is a strange year.
Fake News 3 – Your professional network is an accidental outcome of reaching out to a catalog of business cards, a list of all of the soft leads from a campaign or conference, or a list of followers on social media.
Professional Networking Truth #3 – Your professional network is not just an aggregate of every person you know who may help you out one day. Instead, your professional network is crafted (consciously or not) through the time and energy you spend developing relationships that affect your career. So, while you can network by attending a professional event, these contacts don’t become your professional network until you have put in the time and energy to develop a reciprocal relationship with them. The connections you build and maintain provide access to information and resources for you, and everyone else you are connected to. Everybody benefits.
Fake News 4 – Your Professional Network is only your direct team or work environment.
Professional Network Truth #4 – Your professional network includes EVERY curated relationship that impacts your career. It includes your team and your supervisor, but it also may include the head of the department in a different division, or a key source of support and information in another company. Your professional network includes sponsors and mentors. It includes the main connections you have that bring you new opportunities and information – for example, people you know in professional organizations can often be key connections in a professional network, as long as you are building a reciprocal relationship with them (and not just name dropping).
There are probably many other myths, or Fake News items we could help bust here, but it’s a blog, and most people only read 75% of blog posts (totally just made that up, but it sounds true, right?). So, if you are still reading this, know that being intentional about your network is the first step toward improving its effectiveness. So congratulations, you’re already doing better than many people out there.