The world of work and 'the office' has changed radically in the thirty years since I began my career. Nowhere are these radical changes more apparent than with networking. Although networking did exist thirty years ago, it was rather a male dominated activity at work, with the 'Mad Men' image of 'the long lunch' or the golf club. Networking was largely elite and self-serving: you networked to get up the corporate ladder, you did not network to collaborate or share.
The notion that we would communicate en masse with critics and competitors on the same mediums used for personal exchanges - as professionals do today on Twitter or Facebook - was as incomprehensible to my generation of early workers as the lack of social media and technology is to anyone in their teens and twenties today.
But, networking today, in our hyperconnected age, is not just about looking to climb the corporate ladder. It's about the permanent exchange of bits of knowledge, of intelligence, of creating and maintaining circles of confidantes and connections who can help us get to the holy grail of successful work: enjoyable productivity. Networking is about knowledge and the more equally that knowledge is distributed, the more we see success and the more we will be able to enjoy fulfilling careers.
Recently I have been working with EY, who asked me to write a whitepaper about how work and networking will look in 2020. As part of this look ahead, I wanted to offer some guidance on how we can network more successfully. The following five key practices can and should be used to navigate and curate our way through the tsunami of information we have and the opportunities this presents.
(1) MANAGE YOUR NETWORKS
Dunbar's Number is the so-called suggested limit to the number of people with whom it is thought we can maintain relationships at any one time - and is thought to be no more than 150. So, create a group of 150 people you know who you will connect or reconnect with and actively manage them on a single system: this means reviewing all your disparate systems, from internal intranets to social media and creating a single group. You can then sub-divide that into three: the essential people you currently must keep up with; those you wish to reconnect with or maintain relationships with; and those who you should get to know: your connection targets.
(2) MEET FACE-TO-FACE FIVE TIMES A WEEK
The more face-to-face communication you can manage, the better. You should set a reasonable but ambitious target. Meeting people for a cup of coffee or lunch up to five times a week should be achievable but each person and their schedule obviously varies: sometimes being out for a whole morning or afternoon/evening is better. Remember that small change leads to big change: making any kind of increase is good. Learn to overcome shyness and to connect in a spirit of sharing, not selling.
(3) HAVE A KNOWLEDGE DASHBOARD
Create a list, literally, of sources of information you should be across and make a plan to stay on top of them. Make sure you have a balance between on and offline publications, audio, television or YouTube across areas such as 'news & biews','specialist interest' and 'zeitgeist' Remember: the more you can show your intelligence to others, the easier it becomes to build relationships and the stronger your social capital.
(4) BE AN ACTIVE NETWORKER (IT'S ABOUT LIFESTYLE NOT DIET)
Think of knowledge networking in terms of physical fitness, and in terms of a marathon, not a sprint. Spend at least one fifth of your working time - at least 8-10 hours - a week on a combination of face-to-face connection, organising your networks, and creating your 'knowledge dashboard' of issues and ideas to be across.
(5) PRACTICE CURIOSITY & GENEROSITY
This is the age of collaboration and reciprocity. Share what you know with others: send
a link to an article you have read, order a book and put it in the mail, help someone who looks like they are having an attack of shyness across the corner of a cocktail party room. Above all, be interested in ideas and others, not just yourself.
The advice in this blog is taken from 'Fully Connected - a look ahead to working and networking in 2020', a whitepaper commissioned by EY, the global professional services organisation. To read the paper in full, to watch Julia discussing more about networking and to find out more about careers with EY, visit http://bit.ly/1hshdLK