Today’s Brain Fart: “A lack of 'social capital' holds back men and women in their careers!”.
She is the Executive Dean of Edinburgh Business School, and also grew her own successful executive search business, Taylor Bennett, for many years previously - as well as writing for the Financial Times for 17 years, under the pseudonym Mrs Moneypenny.
Heather is passionate about growing networks, or as she prefers to call it “building social capital”.
This Brain Fart contains just some of the insightful takeaways from Heather's seminar.
Who do you need to build relationships with...?
And what are you doing about it...?
A lot of people don’t like "business networking", and there are many different reasons for this. These include: feeling uncomfortable at networking events, not being sure how to network, and having 1,002 other things to do as a business owner!
A lot of business networking can be wasteful. You could go to events at almost any time of the day, however, if you don’t have clear objectives then you are wasting your time and money!
Heather put forward an alternative approach to traditional business networking. Instead of just turning up at these events and hoping you bump into the right person - or praying that they can introduce you to someone in their network who can help you.
Start with a clear idea of who exactly you would like to meet. You need to be specific here - you need to know the exact person or role and responsibilities of the person you’d like to speak to.
For example, “do you know anyone who works in Amazon?” is a very vague ask. A much better, more specific, ask is: “do you know the person in the HR department of Amazon who is responsible for professional development in the UK?”.
As well as building your network by meeting new people, it is just as important to look at two other steps here: maintaining and leveraging your existing network.
People do not passively benefit from networks (Burt, 2000).
To obtain the real benefits of networking, people need to network: Proactively, strategically create, maintain and leverage relationships that have the potential to help them in their work and career
(Forret & Dougherty, 2004).
The real benefits of networking include: help people find work, facilitate trust in relationships, and give access to more and better information.
A final thought on building social capital: do you even know who you know...? And do you feel comfortable asking those people you know for help…?
Friends and family, former work colleagues, ex-bosses, neighbours (I wrote a previous Brain Fart, about knowing your neighbours here) and people you’ve forgotten about who are all part of your social network - your social capital.
However, many people do not ask their social networks for help because: they forget who is actually there AND they feel “dirty” or “impure” about doing so (Casciaro, Gino, Kouchaki, 2014).
That being said, how often are you maintaining these type of relationships...? And how often do you speak to people from the various stages or roles in your career...?
So to build your social capital, all’s you’ve got to do is:
- Think strategically about who exactly you would like to meet.
- Contact people you know or “weak ties” - people you know who would return your call or an email - who may be able to help with your specific request for help.
- Maintain your existing networks by engaging with them relatively regularly - obviously you can’t do this with everyone so be selective here!
- Create a system for storing details on everyone in it - including notes about how you met them and some personal and professional information.
- Don’t be afraid or feel ashamed to ask for help from people in your network.
How are you going to proactively and strategically build, maintain and leverage your social capital...?
Kallum with a K