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Start Networking Outside Your Comfort Zone!

Posted by Devin Cole  April 11, 2012 03:07 PM

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Get Outside Your Comfort Zone.jpgDo you wish your network provided you with new ideas, greater intelligence and more money? Are you searching for a job without realizing that it's a permanent campaign rather than a job search? Or, are you just trying to find the people who are willing and able to refer business to you? It’s crucial that your network help you encounter new ideas, learn new skills and regain your sense of purpose.The problem is that relatively isolated, homogeneous networks - consisting of people like yourself who live nearby - are unlikely to produce positive outcomes.

I’ve been there - after reading Harvard Business Review’s How to Build Your Network, in 2006, and taking the article’s diagnostic test, my network was revealed to be full of connections made in school and the workplace. It was even bold enough to suggest my network of 90 people was inbred.

Frankly, I liked my network just the way it was because there were very few dissenting views, everyone lived within an hour of me, and I didn’t have to put in any ‘leg-work’ to build the connections. It was comfortable and fun. I wouldn’t have changed anything about it except my network was not producing much business. In fact, it mainly produced beer, wine, food and redundant information. Yet in a fast-changing world, I perceived a credible threat that I could get left behind. I felt compelled to change.

Homogenous groups are very comfortable. They tend to share your interests, opinions and profession and they rarely challenge you or your thinking. But your network should cut across geographies, functions and specialties because that’s where the magic happens! It’s time to let new people into your “circle of trust” and explore ideas that differ from your own.

Start networking outside your comfort zone!

  • Recognize that self-similarity and proximity may be inhibiting your network. Bring awareness to the issue by listing the people you spent your time with the last 4 weeks. Network with people that are different from you and also different from one another.
  • Leverage The Strength of Weak Ties. Carefully search through the connections you have now and search their connections. Then, selectively turn weak ties into strong alliances by pointing out common interests you share while referencing your mutual connection.
  • Get involved in activities and groups that can bring disparate individuals together. Consider activities like non-profit events, biking clubs and bridge where diverse people spend time together participating in a shared passion. Join online groups, contribute to conversations and invite individuals to connect while pointing out the mutual benefits.
  • Help friends connect with other friends to create new synergies. Invite friends who could benefit from each other to an event or lunch where they’ll have the chance to meet.
  • Networking online is a cost-effective solution. Face-to-face meetings are valuable and help deepen relationships – but they are neither easy to facilitate, nor are they cheap. Consider forging relationships with people from all over the world on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Discover people you may know and create a top 10 list of people you want to connect with; create lists for them on Facebook and Twitter, circle them on Google+, subscribe to their blogs and then interact with them and help them.

Your network likely needs your help and attention. Networks often lack the qualities needed to produce interesting ideas or profitable outcomes.

If it’s so easy and beneficial to build high-quality, profitable networks, why do inefficient networks persist? Is it because people lack the time or is it because it’s uncomfortable and challenging to meet new people and integrate new ideas into their own? Start networking outside your comfort zone!

David Chevalier is Co-Founder of SalesBlend, an internet marketing firm. He works with small businesses in Greater Boston to maximize sales performance through an integrated marketing approach.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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