Know Your Network Types

If the point of unraveling is to discover, I believe the #UnraveledNetwork series by Pollen Midwest achieved their goal. Part 1 took place early November 2014 (see the recap here), followed by Part 2 on January 28, 2015.

Part 1 featured keynote speaker Marcia Ballinger, author of 20-Minute Networking Meeting; clever attendee networking icebreakers among round tables, and an intro to the networking study in process by The Carlson School of Management. Part 2, in classroom style, featured findings of the network study and two speakers who posed ideas about storytelling and the role of a mentor.

Networking experts and seminars focused on the tactics of online networking all start with the assumption that we want to and need to be connected for our personal and professional growth. They may focus on quantity of people you’re connected with or create a sense of urgency that you need to dedicate a lot more time for networking in-person and online via social media or you’ll be left out of important conversations or suffer a stagnant career.

Unraveled Stage is Set

Unraveled Stage is Set

On the flip side, #UnraveledNetwork and additional conversations about networking lately have been more about quality networking. They describe the purposes and types of networking. They touch on integrating social media, research and interpersonal skills so that each person can create their own intentional approach regardless of where you fall on the introvert to extrovert scale.

The Carlson networking study, unveiled at the January 28 Unraveled Networks Part 2 event, looked at networking on a holistic level from 106 survey participants. The survey took 30-40 minutes to complete and included Unraveled Network participants and professionals employed in many different companies, industries, and functions in the Twin Cities area. Seventy-seven percent of the survey respondents were women.

Researcher Patricia Dahm cited correlations between people’s work behaviors, career successes and their overall wellbeing. She broke networking down into three deliberate categories: personal, operational and strategic. She also suggested that you are divided among networking modes of building, maintaining and using based on your current work environment and where you’re at in your career.

Network Types

Your Personal Network
This network is all about your personal and professional development long-term. This group generally includes your mentors, mentees and close contacts who know you on more of a personal level. This group is your go-to for career advice and asking those difficult questions – is this career move really right for you? Are you going to be fulfilled in this new role or is it a derailing your long-term goals?

This network is typically smaller on average, but critical. If you don’t have a mentor, get one. If you’re at a point in your career where you can mentor, seek out that opportunity. Pay it forward.

Your Operational Network
This network is all about getting your current work done efficiently. This group is comprised of the immediate and daily people involved in your work like your boss, co-workers and outside vendors. For people within larger companies this network was broad and deep within their own organizations. For entrepreneurs, they logged fewer connections in their operational network and skewed more toward strategic.

The size of this group varies greatly for each individual, but for survey respondents it was the smallest of the three. On the topic of operational networks, an attendee asked which network type would be appropriate for past co-workers. No doubt they may know you well, but when they move out of your operational network, they either move to your personal or strategic network or go untapped.

Your Strategic Network
This network is futuristic, external and diverse. It’s closely aligned with innovation and career growth and potentially the most challenging of the three to build, maintain and use. It includes people outside of your current company, in different industries that might be tangentially related to your interests and even your competition. The Carlson study showed that people surveyed had the most people in their strategic network, followed by personal and then operational.

Research Findings
Patricia gave the survey group kudos for being highly strategically networked and savvy on social media for networking purposes. She also pointed out five key correlations the study uncovered:

  1. People who build large and diverse operational and strategic networks tend to get promoted and advance more quickly career-wise
  2. People who work outside of a company office are apt to have a more diverse network (my shameless plug for #coworking as in @CoCoMSP here)
  3. People who value their own personal development have more diverse network and higher career aspirations
  4. People who have more emotional support have increasingly higher status contacts in their network
  5. People with more diverse networks enjoyed less relaxation

Networking Purposes
The next segment of the program moved from networking types into networking purposes including: building, maintaining and using. These distinctions are important as people evaluate what they need to do in each of their strategic and operational networks to keep them in balance based on where they’re at in their career.

Pollenite Mehgan Murphy kicked of this portion with a talk-show style conversation with D.A. Bullock, owner of Bully Creative. D. A. shared a divergent idea that I’ve not come across in previous seminars that address professional networking – just tell your story.

In his craft, he expertly draws out people’s stories by being his be relatable, inquisitive, human and authentic self. In response to an audience question about his approach in interviewing he says it is planned and organic and 100% of both. He talked about breaking down barriers like professional walls we put up to get to know someone’s true story. Things like elevator pitches? They need to be tossed he says. Deeper connections allow more meaningful ways to pursue your personal interests and causes and better connect to the world.

Maintaining and Using
Next up, Pollenite Jamie Millard brought Lynn Casey, networker extraordinaire and Padilla CRT CEO, to the stage. Lynn talked about ways she’s maintained and used her network in her career to-date. She goes to lunch with her long-term mentor annually, just to catch up. She mentors with an inquisitive mind. When she gets a padded answer, she keeps probing like a journalist who continues to ask why until they get the full story.

And while she knows that time is finite and she admittedly may not have enough if it to respond to all of the business cards in her top desk drawer, she offers this: Be present in the moment. Even if it’s only a 10 minute moment.

Wendy Blomseth, Susan Scofield and Jennifer Gilhoi after the event.

Maintaining with Wendy and Building with Susan after the event

Series Recap

We took in a lot of information over the course of the Unraveled Network. Now, as survey respondents evaluate their results and see where they fall among their fellow networkers, we’ll continue to learn, apply and be deliberate about our networking. The series offered some tactical groundwork for networking and some relief that it can be intentional, productive and not as time consuming as it’s been in the past.

In future posts, I’ll be exploring how to apply this learning and the quantity vs. quality of networking. Connections need to have a certain level of depth to have long-term meaning. As D.A. mentioned, “Social media is a starting point. It can only take us so far. We still have to do the rest.”

Pollenites, what other nuggets did you walk away with? Please share your insight in the process of raveling your networking.


Networking is the New Leadership

We’ve been defining leadership and what makes great leaders for 75 years. But networking? Well… that’s a little nebulous. What makes a great networker? What are the top five things they do and don’t do? How much time does it take to do networking right?

Keynote Marcia BallingerThe Unraveled Network, hosted by Pollen Midwest on November 6th at the Weisman Art Museum, got to the heart of this challenge. Their aim? To delve into the concept of networking through research and behavior to uncover what’s at the core of a great networker then share that learning with aspiring networkers.

Efficiency, Etiquette and Ownership

Keynote speaker Marcia Ballinger, author of 20 Minute Networking Meeting, and Pollen co-founder Jamie Millard kicked it off with a networking etiquette and strategy Q&A. They covered efficiency, etiquette and ownership with scenarios like someone the phone card, not the coffee card (it’s okay!), setting expectations with a beginning and end time for meetings (20 minutes is all that is needed!) and coming prepared with an agenda that highlights connections and brings value to both parties.

PopUp Speaker PointsPop-Up Presenters

The event continued by building on Marcia’s message with pop-up speakers. I love this concept. In a room full of 200-some people, everyone may want to talk to the main speaker(s) that delivered the message. Sometimes that isn’t possible. The pop-up style presented four speakers’ expanding views on networking in brief 2-3 minute format.

They were diverse and made very memorable points like Levi Weinhagen, Co-Founder of Comedy Suitcase, who suggested people ask mentors about their most challenging tasks and Pahoua Hoffman, Policy Director of Citizen’s League, who encouraged people to find the humanness in networking. She likened her networking approach to making friends rather than networking as a necessary evil solely for career gain.

Pollen Program + Connect CardIntentional Ice-Breakers

The match-up for attendee seating assignments (8 per table) was intentionally aligned by the event planners. The methodology (think LinkedIn and online search) is a secret, but even before that was revealed some of us discovered how we were connected just through the natural course of conversation.

The more orchestrated ice-breaking technique for the event began with a 3×4 card designed with a simple question about our daily routine and a specific networking question for each person to answer. When shared around the table, the answers brought insight into personality and networking style, strategies and tactics which stemmed further discussion.

On the flip side of the card there was a “connect card” — a business card to the plus — where you could check the variety of ways you’d like to connect including email, social channels and going to an event together. We couldn’t select just one person to give our one connect card to, so we all exchanged business cards.

Part 1: Recap

For part one in a series of two (to be continued on January 28 from 7:30-10a.m.), this event had the educational component, interactivity in subject matter (all attendees completed a 35 minute survey on their networking habits) and meaningful connections dialed in. I’m looking forward to building on the connections I made at the event and Pollen’s assessment of feedback (in collaboration with the Carlson School of Management) yet to come during Part 2.

The New Leadership

Networking is the new leadership. As a communications person who attends a lot of events and event planner driven by research and behaviors, I can’t help but be drawn to discovering networking best practices. Some subscribe to the theory that the more people you meet the more opportunities you have to make connections that translate into career value. But it’s not necessarily about quantity, it’s about quality… and time, resources and value for your personal life and career.

Fellow Pollenites: Did you find value in this event? Networkers: What value do you give and receive through networking? What do you love and hate about it?