Networks of professional connections can be helpful for people in their jobs and career development. Many people may believe that focusing on developing a large number of connections is the key to success, but this can actually be counterproductive. Instead, research has shown that certain types of networks – those that are open, diverse, and deep and have an abundance of resources – are especially effective.
Open networks are those where a person’s contacts are connected to different groups and clusters of people, rather than all being connected to each other. Network openness can help people avoid groupthink and get access to new information and opportunities.
Diverse networks consist of people with different backgrounds, expertise, and industry experience and at different levels in the organizational hierarchy. Network diversity can expose people to different perspectives to help them make better-informed decisions.
Deep networks are made up of relationships that are characterized by frequent interactions, trust, and reciprocity. Network depth is important because close contacts can be called on to advocate for and help them to achieve their goals. It is important for people to balance their weak and strong ties in their networks in order to get unique information from acquaintances and support from trusted contacts.
Resource rich networks support individuals’ success in different ways. People in your professional network who help you:
Building and maintaining an network of relationships with these characteristics enables personal and professional success. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss how network training and development help people to build and maintain their professional networks.