Nov 9 • 35M

Book Chapter - Creating Your Powerful Network (Issue #14)

It will fuel your future success

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Larry Cornett, Ph.D.
Advice to help you live the life you deserve! I’m Dr. Larry Cornett, a psychologist who loves to study and understand what inspires and motivates people to live their best lives. I spent decades in the corporate world and thought climbing the career ladder to become an executive would make me happy. Spoiler alert: It did not. I found myself wanting more, so I’ve spent the past 12+ years creating the life I want. In this podcast, I share what I've learned with you. I hope my advice will help you pursue the life of your dreams so you can be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled.
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This is a draft of chapter 14 from the book I’m writing, Building the Invincible You. I share a framework and strategies for:

  • Reclaiming your power in your work and life.

  • Regaining your freedom to spend more of your time the way you wish you could.

  • Building the future you want for yourself and your loved ones.

Subscribe to receive my future draft chapters in your inbox.


“The job was just posted yesterday, but more than 300 people have already applied! How will my resume stand out and get noticed? I’m not getting responses from any of my applications.”

He probably didn’t like my answer, “It won’t get noticed. Unless you have a dream resume, it will never be how you get a job.”

As I write this chapter, the American economy is heading into a recession. Several thousand people have lost their jobs (e.g., Meta just laid off over 11,000 employees today!), many notable corporations have instituted hiring freezes, and we are now in an employer’s market.

All of this means that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a new job. Job seekers are discovering they are competing with hundreds of other candidates for the same positions. Recruiters and hiring managers are ghosting people more frequently than they have been for the past few years.

If you need a job right now, the odds aren’t in your favor. Playing a numbers game by blasting your resume to hundreds of employers isn’t going to help. Those employers are already receiving hundreds of applications for the few open positions they’ve posted. So, as I said earlier, unless you’re a dream candidate with a stellar resume, you need a different strategy.

Luckily, there is a secret weapon that can help you: your network. Your network is how you can stand out from the pack. A powerful network is an essential part of your invincible career and life. It’s not only useful for a job search, of course. I can think of so many times in my life when my network helped me address various challenges and discover new opportunities.

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together."
— African Proverb

Have you heard of the book Your Network is Your Net Worth by Porter Gale? She makes the case that your true “net worth” isn’t measured by the wealth you have amassed. Instead, your most valuable asset is the meaningful connections you have created and actively maintain with other human beings.

The world is changing rapidly. Relationships span the globe and are no longer restricted to people you physically meet every day. Succeeding in this new world depends on your connections with kind, smart, and talented individuals who are often just one click away.

The old ways of networking and power plays are fading from relevance. It will no longer be about who you know, the favors you owe, or your title. It will be about the value you can bring to the table. It will be about the kind of person you are.

I believe in the power of social capital to improve your productivity, expand your professional options, and raise your overall quality of life. I believe that seeking out and working in collaboration with others who share your interests and values will provide a stronger foundation, enabling you to reach a higher level of success than you would on your own.
— Porter Gale


Why a strong network matters

Creating something of lasting meaning, impact, and value is rarely possible alone. We need to collaborate with others who share our beliefs, values, and vision. You can’t leave this relationship-building to random chance (e.g., people you happen to work with at the office, or neighbors that live near you).

Nothing of significance was ever achieved by an individual acting alone. Look below the surface and you will find that all seemingly solo acts are really team efforts.
— John C. Maxwell

Traditionally, we have relied on our employer to inject us into a readymade network. We collaborate with our coworkers on the shared vision of the company. We create friendships over thousands of lunches and coffee breaks.

This is all well and good, as long as you never waver or lose faith in that vision. If you decide to leave, or your employer falters and fails you (e.g., terminates your employment), your node is removed from that network, and links to you slowly fade away.

Yes, you can connect with your old coworkers on Linkedin and social media. However, we all know it isn’t the same as being in the trenches together every day. I’ve personally experienced this. I left my last corporate job over a decade ago. We all stayed in touch for a few years, but the communication has slowed to a trickle now.

You can no longer rely on a bond that is only based on shared employment and daily interactions at the water cooler. You need to create a strong network that is based on entirely different factors that remain fully under your control.

True, the world is changing. But, luckily, we can take ownership of our relationships more easily than before. We can forge strong partnerships and friendships with like-minded individuals across the entire world. As I always recommend, take control of your career and treat it like a business. Like any business owner, you should know that managing relationships is crucial for the survival of your business (i.e., career).

For example, the power of your network will determine how successful you will be in landing great job opportunities that bring you closer to your ultimate career goals. Like it or not, access to the hidden job market isn’t granted if you don't connect with great people.

Those with influential networks have better opportunities than those who struggle to compete with the masses for the best jobs. Also, your network is even more important if you strike out on your own to create your own business. It is much easier to build awareness, raise capital, and find customers for your new business when you have a robust and well-connected network.

Finally, as you scale your business to find partners and hire employees, nothing can replace the trust you’ve created within your network. I’ve tried partnering with people I didn’t know very well, and I’ve hired strangers before. It’s challenging, to put it mildly. I’ve had greater success over the last few years by establishing and nurturing deep relationships before trying to work with someone.


Assess your current network

As a first step, you need to take a hard look at the state of your existing network. Most of us have networks that evolved organically instead of intentionally. We’ve accepted requests from friends, coworkers, and recruiters. We’ve reached out and actively connected with a few people, but usually without a real strategy or goal in mind.

If your network is anything like mine used to be, it is heavily weighted within a single industry, a few professions, and one geographic region. Mine is still saturated with Silicon Valley tech folks (e.g., startup founders, tech execs, designers, product managers, engineers, VCs, and Angel investors). But, I’ve been working diligently over the past few years to expand it more broadly.


Power

How powerful is your network? What do the people in your network do? Are some of them movers and shakers? Are some of them connectors (e.g., they know lots of influential people)?

We are transitioning to the concept of a valuable network independent of the old definitions of “power players,” but let’s not kid ourselves. Some people are in stronger positions of influence than others.

A few people can introduce you directly to an investor who will take a meeting with you, no questions asked. If you’ve tried to get close to an investor before, you know how valuable this type of warm intro can be.

Other people can bring you in for a role, and the job is yours if you want it. The interviews become a formality. I’ve been lucky enough to experience this a few times during my career. I was connected to senior executives inside a company, and they wanted to hire me. When I met with the other execs, they’d say something like, “Well, if he vouches for you, that’s good enough for me.” Power, influence, and position still matter — for now.

When you are just starting your career, your network tends to be composed primarily of your peers. For example, college students connect with other college students. That’s fun, but it’s not a very powerful network — yet.

As you advance in your career, your network will grow with you. However, it takes time and patience. Some of my peers who started with me as young designers are now C-level executives at publicly-traded companies. Some of them have enjoyed great success and transitioned into the world of investment.

If your network is composed primarily of peers, I challenge you to reach beyond your social circle to bring in older and more powerful individuals. As a student, this might require connecting with faculty, advisors, and mentors.

Meet and connect with more experienced people at conferences, workshops, meet-ups, and other events. Don’t be shy about speaking up, reaching out, and connecting with these individuals. Let me share an example.

I spoke at the Fluxible conference in Canada many years ago. My talk was on Designing for Love and Money, and I talked about treating your career like a business. A student in the audience asked how you can get a start when you don’t have the experience and you’re not well-connected in the industry.

Speaking to that room full of hundreds of people, I said, “Send me a connection request on Linkedin right now. Connect with me and tap into my network. I’ll do what I can to help you.

Guess how many people took me up on that offer? 

About five.

I’ve stayed connected to one of those people ever since the talk and given her feedback, guidance, and support in her career pursuits. She recently landed a great new job, by the way.

So, level up the power of your network. The latent opportunity within your network is a function of the power of the individuals within it. Don’t play small.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
― Jim Rohn


Alignment

How aligned is your network with your strategic career path? Does it reflect your desired role in the right industry? If you’re leaping into entrepreneurship, do you have the connections and support that will make that endeavor more successful?

The majority of my network used to be in the world of corporate tech. Having a network like that worked exceedingly well for me when my career was in Silicon Valley.

  • I was able to land new jobs fairly easily.

  • I met with investors other people couldn’t reach.

  • I could recruit extremely talented people for my teams.

  • I still get advice from some of the best minds in the industry across Design, Product, Engineering, Sales, Marketing, and more.

But, as my 2nd Act career shifted into a new direction, I had to expand my network to connect with people who were more fully aligned with my new business. I’ve spent the last few years making friends around the world with strong backgrounds in sales, marketing, PR, publishing, writing, social media, finance, business strategy, and entrepreneurship.

I’ve learned a great deal I was never exposed to in my narrow professional niche. I’ve built relationships with amazing people who have become business partners in new opportunities. I wouldn't have had these opportunities if I hadn’t taken the time to realign and expand my network.

Consider where you want to take your career next, and then take a hard look at your network. Are you connected with the right people who align with your new goals? 

If not, now is the time to invest in creating those new relationships. Find people who will support and motivate you. Find mentors who have walked the path before you.


Diversity

The diversity in your network is essential for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, we tend to befriend and connect with people who are similar to us. Believe it or not, we also tend to have friends who are genetically similar to ourselves (how freaky is that?).

That’s why people in tech tend to have a network composed mostly of similar people in similar professions. I’ve witnessed and experienced this firsthand. For the longest time, my network was full of designers in Silicon Valley.

However, research has proven that more diverse teams generate the best outcomes. This diversity includes background, location, education, socioeconomic status, profession, industry, cognitive styles, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and age.

If your network is homogeneous, it’s time to shake things up.

“A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.”

Get out of your comfort zone and attend events and meet-ups you usually wouldn’t consider. Join groups that will stretch your mind, educate you in new ways, and introduce you to people you don’t typically meet in your daily life or 9-to-5 job.

If you don’t, you risk living in an echo chamber. For example, my tech colleagues often talk about the “Silicon Valley Bubble.” We design software, create solutions, and think our problems are the same problems everyone must be facing.

“How will I ever get across town if I have to wait for a dirty old taxi? I know! Let’s create an elegant on-demand car service.”

Let me tell you, many of the folks outside of tech-savvy urban areas don’t care about Uber (or even have access to it). They’re worried about getting laid off at work, scared that they won’t be able to pay rent, wondering how they can ever send their children to college, and trying to put food on the table. They’re not going to waste money on a car service.

Get out of your bubble and expand your network. I have, and it has been amazing. It first started when I joined a CrossFit box and made close friends there. Some of us were tech geeks, but many people worked in very different professions and had very different life issues, concerns, hopes, and dreams.

It continued when I moved out of Silicon Valley and into a more rural area. It has been surprising and refreshing.

When I meet people, they don’t start the conversation with, “Where do you work? Are your options underwater?” They don’t become disinterested in talking with me when they find out I don’t work at Facebook, Google, or some hot new startup.

Conversations center more around real, day-to-day life. We talk about how we spend our weekends, recent travel, our families, new restaurants, books and movies, health and fitness, etc.

Diversify your network to become more creative, collaborative, empathetic, and successful. Eliminate the mindset that you can only accept Linkedin requests from people who are just like you or can do you a favor.

The value and power of a more diverse network — in every sense — may not seem immediately apparent. But the benefits are long-term and real.


Freshness

When was the last time you talked with people in your network who aren't your coworkers or close friends? How often do you meet folks for lunch, coffee, or drinks? Do you socialize on a personal level, or do you try to leverage people like tools?

A stale network is a weak network.

You can’t just tap into people when you need a favor. No one likes that. I can’t even count the number of times someone would contact me only when they needed a favor, after not seeing me for years.

I’m a bit of a hermit, so this advice feels somewhat hypocritical. But you can be better than I am. I know being social is a weakness of mine. I’m a deep introvert, although many don’t know that.

Learn from my mistakes, and keep your connections fresh. I know you can’t have lunch or coffee with 500+ people every month. That isn’t a realistic expectation. But, you can connect in small ways that take very little time.

For example, I send a short message to people just to let them know I was thinking of them. Maybe I’ll share an article I thought they would like. Sometimes I’ll share the memory of an event we both experienced.

That’s it. I don’t add, “Oh, by the way. Can you also do me a favor?

There are CRM systems that handle customer relationships quite well. Unfortunately, I haven’t found an amazing Network Relationship Management system yet. If you’re aware of one, please let me know.

I’m not talking about Facebook’s lame birthday reminders. Getting those always feels like the birthday cards my dentist and insurance agent send me every year. Ugh.

However, here are some things you can easily do to keep your network fresh:

  • Create a list of people from your network you would like to stay more closely connected with (Linkedin buries this, but you can export your data, including your connections).

  • Create a spreadsheet as a simple relationship management tool. Put names in columns, other relevant info (e.g., who they are, how you met, what they do, etc.), and then have columns to track when you last contacted them and how (e.g., a text to say hello)

  • Identify a small subset of people you want to meet for coffee, lunch, or drinks physically. Schedule time with them.

  • Set up video chats or phone calls with another subset of folks who live far away from you.

  • Send a “Thank you” to people who made a difference in your life. I know we sometimes feel too shy to say it in person. It’s more comfortable with time and distance. I’ve sent thank you notes to professors, bosses, and mentors from my past. It felt good to acknowledge them, and they seemed to appreciate the gesture too.

  • Share a relevant article with another subset of people (e.g., a research article on clean energy)

  • Simply say, “Hi, I was thinking about you the other day. I was wondering how you’ve been doing?” to another group of people

You get the idea.

If you want your network to be valuable, you have to keep the connections fresh. It’s based on relationships with real people. I also think you’ll be surprised to discover how much fun it is to reconnect with people.

We all get busy with our lives and think we can’t make time. But it’s worth the investment. For example, I have a weekly video chat with some folks from my network, and Slack chats with others. I always come away feeling energized.


Bond

How close are you to the people in your network? How willing are they to help you out? How often do you help people out? Are they comfortable introducing you to other valuable individuals in their network?

It’s hard to have a strong bond if you haven’t maintained a relationship. But, we also have relationships that are inherently stronger than others. Months can go by without a call with my siblings, but my bond with them will always be stronger than the ones I have with people I network with every week.

So, assess the existing bonds within your network. Some are strong, others are casual, and a few are probably weak (e.g., you connected on Linkedin, but you have never actually talked with those people). Identify opportunities to strengthen the bonds, where appropriate.

One great way to strengthen a bond is to provide value, with no expectation of anything in return. All too often, people only help out others when they want something. You can stand out by delivering value with no strings attached.

I’ve introduced people to other great people simply because I thought they would find value in that relationship. I’ve helped recruiters and hiring managers find candidates. I help friends find jobs.

Helping others will strengthen your network and make it much more powerful. Making that investment is well worth the time it takes.


Invest in your network

I hope this has inspired you to spend more time cultivating your network. It is one of the best investments you can make, both for your professional and personal life. My network has enabled a great deal of my success over the past 20+ years.

All too often, we just let our networks happen. They grow and evolve organically. Of course, there will always be some element of that, but don’t let that be the end of the story.

Have a long-term strategy in mind, set some goals for your career and life, and reshape your network to be a powerful part of making that come true.


A quick tip

When I moved to my new hometown, I didn’t know anyone there. I am far from Silicon Valley now, so very few people work in the tech industry. I wanted to meet other entrepreneurs and small business owners, but I wasn’t sure where to begin.

I decided to search Meetup to see if there were any like-minded folks near me. There weren’t many groups, but I did find a couple of entrepreneurial ones and a few technology-related ones a little farther away.

So, I joined some groups and attended meetings. It was a great way to expand my network and get out of my comfort zone. I met some pretty cool people.

Whatever your professional interests and personal hobbies are, you might be surprised to find that there are relevant meet-up groups for those interests. I’ve joined groups for hiking, running, business, public speaking, writing, comedy, Wordpress, and more.

So, one tip for you is to create an account on Meetup.com and join a few local groups. Attend some meetings and get to know people you usually wouldn’t run into at work or in your neighborhood.

Another option is Bumble BFF. Although Bumble is best known for being a dating app, they also offer a way to meet new friends from the community around you. Additionally, they have Bumble Bizz to help professionals connect with each other locally in a new way of networking.

Although your most powerful network will be the one you’ve built and nurtured over several years, your relationships with new acquaintances can be quite useful in ways you might not expect. Your strong ties tend to have overlapping networks, which may not always be a good thing.


The surprising value of weak ties

If you’re looking for a new job, your weak ties may be more helpful than your close friends. That sounds counterintuitive, but I’ll explain why shortly.

Maybe you want to start a new business or grow your customer base. You’re probably better off building new connections with acquaintances than tapping into your existing colleagues.

So, what is a weak tie? Well, it’s someone you know, but not very well. Or, you were close a long time ago but haven’t been in contact for years or decades.

These weak ties in your network have faded with time and distance. They could be:

  • A classmate from high school.

  • Your college roommate.

  • One of your favorite professors.

  • A coworker or boss from one of your early jobs.

  • An old neighbor.

  • Someone you met at a conference years ago.

  • People you bump into at your local coffee shop or gym.

Contrast these types of relationships with the ones in which you have strong ties.

  • You have a much stronger and fresher connection with your current coworkers and manager.

  • You are obviously very close to your family.

  • Your good friends talk with you often and probably travel in similar social circles.

They know you very well. Perhaps too well.

That’s the complexity of strong ties. So many more factors come into play when friends and close colleagues make introductions, recommend each other for jobs, and provide testimonials. They don’t want to risk their reputations, but they also don’t want you to get burned. It’s a tricky balance.

Yes, these tight relationships are valuable for many, many reasons. Your close friends, family, and partners will help you, provide favors, make introductions, advise you, and maybe even hire you.

However, since you overlap so much, you will rarely be exposed to entirely new information or people. To learn and grow, you have to expose yourself to thoughts and ideas outside your bubble.

To expand your network and increase its diversity and value, you have to stretch yourself to seek out entirely new networks that are far away from your friends, family, and colleagues.

Visualization of strong and weak ties in your network
Network overlaps with your strong ties

Seven ways that weak ties are valuable:

  1. Discovering new opportunities.

  2. Sharing new information.

  3. Exposing you to alternative points of view.

  4. Improving your cultural understanding.

  5. Increasing the diversity of your network.

  6. Increasing the power of your network.

  7. Making you seem more unique.

1. Discovering new opportunities

“Mark Granovetter surveyed people in professional, technical and managerial professions who recently changed jobs. Nearly 17% heard about the job from a strong tie…. But surprisingly, people were significantly more likely to benefit from weak ties. Almost 28% heard about the job from a weak tie. Strong ties provide bonds, but weak ties served as bridges: they provide more efficient access to new information.”
— Adam Grant, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (my affiliate link)

Within your stronger and closer networks, many of the people have already heard about the same opportunities. I remember this phenomenon when I was a young designer starting my first solopreneur agency.

When I talked with the designers in my Silicon Valley network, they often shared the same connections and potential gigs. They knew the same people at the same companies.

However, when I reached out to my friends in engineering, marketing, program management, etc., they were aware of completely different opportunities. They would bring me into companies to work on projects that my design peers didn’t know existed.

2. Sharing new information

When you want to learn new things continually, you’ll often discover that your weak ties in your broader network are a better source than your strong ties. How often does a friend or colleague share something with you, and you say, “Oh, yeah. I read that article this morning.”

It frequently happens to me. It’s perhaps not surprising. My close friends and colleagues all tend to read the same news sources and publications. We all work in the same general industry.

However, my weaker ties often share new information that I would never encounter in my daily life. Likewise, when I want to share information and reach a broader audience, I’m better off sharing it with acquaintances and even strangers.

Why? Because when my close friends and colleagues share my information with their networks, the overlap is significant. It reaches the same people again and never bridges across entirely new networks. People tune out when they keep seeing it andyou.

Research published by Mark S. Granovetter supports this experience:

“…this means that whatever is to be diffused can reach a larger number of people, and traverse greater social distance (i.e., path length), when passed through weak ties rather than strong.”

3. Exposure to alternative points of view

It happens to the best of us. We live in our little worlds, seeing the same people every day, having the same conversations, and are too busy to explore beyond those boundaries.

Our familiar social and professional networks become echo chambers. We spend our days reading posts and articles that reinforce our points of view. We begin to falsely believe that everyone shares our political viewpoints, moral code, and life philosophy.

Then — as one example — we are horribly surprised during an election year. Just ask my liberal friends in California who couldn’t believe that people voted for Trump.

Well, I still have weak ties to the Midwest (where I grew up). So, I wasn’t surprised. I already knew that millions of people held very different viewpoints than my friends in Silicon Valley.

I’m not saying that you’ll always enjoy being exposed to different points of view. But, you shouldn’t place your head in the sand and dream that the world is 100% aligned with what you believe. Awareness is powerful.

4. Improved cultural understanding

By “culture,” I’m referring to it in every sense of the word. It’s a system of collectively held values unique to countries, geographies, cities, professions, religions, politics, online communities, and more.

You are a product of your culture. It influences you in ways you probably know, but also in ways you aren’t aware of.

The attitude of “us” vs. “them” is rarely healthy. Embracing the weak ties in your network allows you to become more culturally aware and sensitive. You can appreciate where someone is coming from, even if you don’t fully understand it or want to adopt it yourself.

For example, I’m still connected to old colleagues from my time living and working in Shanghai. Living there certainly improved my cultural understanding of my friends in China. Time and distance have made these ties weak, of course. But, maintaining a degree of connection to my friends and coworkers ensures that I never forget what their lives are like.

5. Increasing the diversity of your network

Thanks to my time working in tech and all of my international travel, I have a fairly diverse network that spans the globe. But, I also have a network that spans professions and socioeconomic classes, too. I’ve spent time with billionaires, and I hang out with people who are barely getting by.

As I mentioned earlier, diversity will make your network more powerful and valuable. You have to expand beyond your familiar circle of neighbors, friends, and coworkers. Joining online communities can help you with this task. It’s easy to get into a routine of only talking with the people you see every day. Online communities provide access to wonderful folks you would never meet otherwise.

Your weak ties are weak because they are outside of your social and professional bubble. And that’s exactly what makes them so valuable. Diversify your network to become more creative, collaborative, empathetic, and successful.

6. Increasing the power of your network

You’re limiting the power of your network when it only consists of the familiar people who are already in your network. They may introduce you to a few new people from their unique networks. But like attracts like, which isn’t always good.

I see this happen all the time. People in a specific profession make friends with other people in their profession and have a network mostly filled with individuals near their experience level.

  • College students have a network full of other students.

  • Junior designers have a network full of other designers.

  • Real estate agents are connected to a bunch of other agents.

However, your weak ties will help you build a more powerful network that spans professions and industries and includes people at higher levels of influence.

My weak ties, for example, introduced me to CEOs, VC partners, and angel investors. Now, they are in my extended network as new weak ties (no, we aren’t buddies who golf every weekend).

7. You are viewed as unique

This benefit is a funny one that I discovered over the years of my career. It’s related to the old saying that “familiarity breeds contempt.”

“Though familiarity may not breed contempt, it takes off the edge of admiration.”
— William Hazlitt

Your friends, family, and colleagues are all too familiar with your stories. They are so accustomed to you that they may even take you for granted at times.

Many years ago, I did many speaking tours when I was the VP of Consumer Products for Yahoo Search. I would present to organizations inside the company on the main campus in California. I also traveled internationally to present to our offices in London, Barcelona, Bangalore, etc.

Recently, I’ve given talks and workshops to tech teams in the U.S., but also at conferences in other countries. Looking back on 15 years of doing this, I noticed an interesting pattern:

The less familiar the audience was with me, the more valuable they thought my talk was. They viewed me as unique, and that somehow made me more interesting to them.

It’s nice to feel appreciated. Everyone should have the experience of being treated as special, interesting, and entertaining. It’s a nice confidence boost!

The strong ties in your network may not think that interacting with you every day is all that special. But, the people who are weak ties will value time with you and make you feel appreciated.

Light up those weak ties!

It doesn’t matter what you want to accomplish professionally; activating the weak ties in your network will help you more than you think. Reaching out to your acquaintances — old and new — will increase the diversity, power, freshness, value, and uniqueness in your professional social graph.

However, this doesn’t mean that you need to transform your weak ties into strong ties. That’s impossible. It’s too hard to maintain strong ties with a large group of people.

It’s really more about creating a stronger, broader network of weak ties and not letting those relationships completely fade away. If that happens, they become absent ties. It disconnects those other networks entirely from you, and potential opportunities vanish.

Reactivating old relationships was a lot harder a few years ago. You may have only bumped into these people thanks to business trips, conferences, industry events, or a chance encounter (e.g., seeing someone at a local cafe).

For example, I spoke at a conference in Melbourne, Australia, a few years ago. I met some wonderful people, and we connected on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. But, when would I ever see them again under ordinary circumstances?

However, now I can just set up a Zoom appointment and catch up with someone halfway around the world. Some of these new acquaintances joined my career community, and now I can chat with them there.

Are you ready to reconnect with old friends and colleagues? Are you ready to meet some new acquaintances to add to your professional network? If so, check out these exercises and challenges.


Networking challenges and exercises

I believe so much in the power of your network that I dedicate a month to this topic every year for my premium newsletter subscribers. Here are four exercises that I gave them recently for our Monday office hours. I want to challenge you to try them and see if they help you build, strengthen, and ignite your network.


Key Points

  • In an employer's market, it takes more to get noticed than a job application and resume.

  • Unless you're in the top 1%, you had better play the game differently than the masses (e.g., to find jobs, land promotions, secure funding, etc.).

  • Your network is one of the most valuable assets that can help you with your career and life.

  • Building your invincible life and career is much easier when your network is powerful, fresh, diverse, and aligned with your long-term goals. A valuable network doesn't happen accidentally.

  • Your network is like a garden. Nurture it to keep it healthy, intentionally invest in its growth, and protect it. Otherwise, it will fill with unwanted weeds and decay.

  • Building "weak ties" is a surprisingly useful way to meet new people and discover new opportunities that are outside your core network.

  • Online communities can help you expand your network if you don’t live in a diverse enough location to meet new people who will challenge you, support you, and help you grow.

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Larry Cornett received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Rice University. He spent decades in the Silicon Valley tech industry as a designer, Design leader, Product executive, and startup founder. He eventually left the corporate world to start a coaching practice and now lives in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with his wife and a gigantic Great Dane. He does his best to share advice to help others create their own invincible lives. He’s also on Twitter @cornett.