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The Net Worth of Your Networking

11 Jan 2010 8:20 PM | Working Women (Administrator)

Do you network?  Many of us could not imagine life without being involved with either a face to face or an online network.  Whether you show up personally to Meetup events or, perhaps you prefer to do your networking from home using Facebook, you may be asking yourself: why is this important to me? What you should be asking yourself is what your importance is to your network. 

It is deeply ingrained in human consciousness to be connected.  The reason, as the poet John Donne stated, is that “no man is an island.”  Sexism aside, imagine yourself on a raft in the middle of the ocean.  You are perfectly happy with your little space; you don’t see anything bad on the horizon.  You continue to float along on your little happy raft without worry.  Suddenly and without warning, your raft springs a leak and you begin to sink at an alarming rate.  You shout for help until you lose your voice.  No one answers.   

Now, imagine your raft is connected to a circle of other rafts, which in turn are also connected to many other rafts.  In that same terrifying situation, everyone’s buoyancy combined can keep you from sinking.  I believe the mantra is:  “I have a friend who knows someone who can help you with that!”  This is the power of networking.  It is also a basic human survival technique.    

But let’s not oversimplify things.  Consider also the more technical ways to more concretely understand how you stand in your social network. Think of yourself as a small node: for example a single brain cell, or one home computer connected to network.  Scientists and technicians use two factors, known as “betweenness” and “closeness” to determine a particular node’s usefulness on a network.

Your “betweenness” factor measures how much control you have over what flows between yourself and other members of a network.  In quantifiable terms, this is the number of times you are able to connect to others around you.  Ask yourself:  “how often is my node a connector in the pathway of communication between other nodes?”  So from this we know that the amount of people you introduce to others in social settings, either directly or indirectly, is very important. 

The other factor of measuring your influence in a network is your “closeness” factor.  This reveals how easily you can access what is available on a network.  If you had an emergency, how quickly could you get your request to the entire network?  Appraise what resources are available to you, should you need them.  What are you personally making available to other members of your network?

When a brain cell fails, the other cells around it extend their growth to keep the brain functioning properly.  Computers aren’t yet this advanced, however a single computer can make available to the other machines around it greatly increased availability of information and speed of retrieval.  We can learn from these examples that routinely examining and enhancing our own levels of betweenness and closeness can make our network stronger, which will in turn make you a stronger member.

You can connect with Megan Daniel on Facebook.

 

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