Thursday, April 29, 2004

It's All About the Connections

Whether you're talking computer networks or people networks, it's all about the connections.

Metcalfe's Law is just as true for people as it is for computer networks and it's also just as true for doing business within an organization as it is for job searching.

One person I know was starting to wonder why job-searching wasn't panning out until he started touching base with old co-workers. In another case, a manager used building social capital as a way of getting two departments to work better together. Building a network of resources and people who are interested in helping you out and willing to give you the benefit of the doubt when things go sideways is a good way to start off on the right foot in a new environment too.

So how does a geek go about growing and maintaining a network when being social isn't necessarily a high priority?

Here are some of the thoughts other readers and some of my clients and previous coworkers have come up with...

    Keep a list of people you enjoy being around or might like to get to know better. Make special note of those who have good social networks of their own and those who work in other departments and similar departments in other companies and are respected for their work.

    Keep a running appointment on your calendar to invite one or more of the people on your list to lunch every 1-3 weeks. It's good networking and you could probably use the break.

    Make arrangements to meet up with people on your list after work for drinks or for some other social time periodically.

    Send a quick email or IM periodically to the people in your address book - if it's a large list, you probably want to set up some kind of a rotational schedule.

    Schedule periodic potluck or brownbag lunches with people from your department and the other departments you work with - it can be purely social or can be work-related, such as a peer-learning network.

You'll notice that food is a common theme - Food seems to be one of the geek universals and it helps make everyone feel more interested in joining in and more at ease when they do. Scheduling is another repeat item in the list of suggestions. It's a good way of keeping a promise to yourself (for those who think it "just happens" or those who find it an uncomfortable chore) to get out there and do it... and it's also a nod to the fact that the human aspect of networking requires the same kind of maintenance and attention that computer networks do.

If you have other suggestions or experiences you'd like to share, send them to me at and let's grow our knowledge network.

Are you plugged into some sort of network or are you trying to make it happen all by yourself?