Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 52 – Social Networking

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you. I hope you have a good run up to the Christmas break and your break over the Christmas and New Year is not too hard on the waistline. 

December is always an interesting time for get togethers and social functions. We have an opportunity to meet people we may have not had the opportunity to meet with socially, or had many chances to chat during the working hours, and why should you – you’re there to work !!! But seriously, we see lots of people in a formal setting on a daily basis, Christmas and the run up to the festive season is an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and interact with people you may otherwise not speak to. This month we have a quick look at the Social Networking aspect of our working lives. 

In this issue we will look at:

• Social Networking – What it is and how you can leverage it for your own purpose
• The 6 degrees of separation
• Making the right impression
• Job Opportunities
• News from the office
• A Thought to ponder

Social Networking: What it is and how you can leverage it for your own purpose.
Individuals who meet the same people and do things in the same way, with these same people will share the same kinds of knowledge and therefore interests (this can be termed a “closed network structure”). They will have a similar set of reference points, and it could be argued the same way of looking and thinking about things.

Individuals on the other hand, with links to many different network groups (ie., has a more open kind of network structure) will be able to offer advice, suggestions and information to, and receive back a wholly different set of reference points and value sets. These can be used to get more out of life, find better jobs, receive information of interest and use, and generally obtain information they may not have had time to read or find out about themselves.

Now I would have to say that most people tend to have both kinds of network structure. There’s the family group, you meet for picnics and dinners and you probably end up talking about great Aunt Mabel most of the night. And then we have the personal networks and the professional networks. Of the two remaining types your professional network should be at least on par with the amount of people you interact with on a social basis. Why? Well unless Aunt Mabel of your best friend has the inner ear of the CEO’s and the decision makers of the big businesses chances are you will be looking towards Seek and the Newspapers for your next position. Your professional network can open up far more avenues than you could ever dream of doing on your own. Because it is not just who you know that matters, but who they know, and more importantly – who knows of you.

Professional networking is used by large organisations to very great effect – “The Old School Network”, “Jobs for the boys” “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” are valid in this context. How many times have you received or heard about job opportunities through a contact, or a contact of a contact? And so it is with big business and large multi national corporations. Informal networks between executives may be used to gather competitive information, such as movement within a particular market, is there room for another player? Do we collaborate and take a 50% stake each of the whole market rather than trying to cut prices and do each other out of business? Whilst the CCC may not take a kindly stance to this kind of behaviour, especially if it results in price fixing, but as we have noticed with the price of fuel – we are all aware this kind of behaviour may appear to be going on.

The 6 degrees of separation
As we mentioned earlier, it is not just who you know that is truly important, but the people they know, and the people they know. Like ripples in a pond, it is said we can know almost everyone through what is termed The Six Degrees of Separation. “Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries.”,,sid9_gci932596,00.html

As this is the last issue for 2006 we are going to play a game, an important game nonetheless and it will highlight the interesting aspects of this concept.

It is quite an interesting exercise to complete and if you are interested in trying you will need a large(ish) sheet of paper and some coloured pens – just to make it easy on the eyes to work out the connections.

In the centre of the paper you need to write your name and encircle it. That is your personal sphere – it contains you – ah – now that was the easy bit. But it also interesting, personal development, motivation, self-help all comes back to us. No-one can make us do anything we don’t want to do (we are fortunate not to live in a dictatorship after all) It is up to us if we want a better job, or to work on our CV, it is up to us how much we eat and exercise. It is up to us what mood we’re in and the attitude we have at any particular time. So please do not underestimate the importance of this inner circle. Now it should also be said – that you are not the centre of THE universe, just the centre of your own universe, and you know what – so is everyone else.

Now once you have encircled your name, immediately outside that area is your close/immediate family – kids, spouse, siblings, parents, and people you see on a very regular basis that you are close too. Now bear in mind that to do this “properly” you can create a sphere of influence chart for every member of the circles, if you do these on acetate sheets you will begin to see how these circles start to overlap and therefore you can increase your own network of connections, simply by moving into another area on a regular basis.

Once you have done this encircle the group, outside this circle are your friends and family – ones that you see occasionally as opposed to the ones you see on a regular basis. You may add grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc to this list… encircle them, the next level out are your casual acquaintances, this list should be quite large, who do you see at events, your current work place, the gym, the kids school etc etc…and beyond that circle is everyone else.

Now working on the theory that everyone knows a lot of other people, if you have ever wondered where on earth your next job was going to come from, and your list is a little sparse I would suggest that you need to get out more. But it is no good just going to these events you also need to be prepared for the encounters and opportunities that come your way…but more of that in a minute.

If you have spent the time looking over the diagram and added names – you will be able to see that your list contains quite a few possibilities. However, it should also be noted that the person you contact may not have a position on offer, but may know of several people who do….Your casual acquaintance circle is your “open network”

Making the right impression
As we mentioned previously it is absolutely no good just turning up to a social or professional event, learning whatever it is there is to learn, consuming the food and drink on offer and then slinking off back to your personal sphere of influence (home).

Social networking is an essential part of a professional’s life. Industry events, seminars, training courses, open forums and lectures, even business meetings have an element of social networking attached to them, so it is important to be remembered for the right reasons.

Be prepared: Do you have a business card to take with you? However, do not give these out to anyone who is passing – whilst this can be classed as Direct Marketing it is actually akin to SPAM in the electronic world. If you give your card to everyone and get nothing in return – what is the point? Most people are too busy and will roll their eyes when you inform them that you are open to any offers so “call me and we’ll chat”.

Introduce yourself to someone you have never met: Most industry events will provide name badges. However, if you have one provided for you with your current place of work, make a point of wearing it. On the right hand side please – this gives people your name.

Offer your hand and greet the person – with confidence. “Good Morning, my name is Lorraine Bradshaw,” the person will automatically offer both their hand and name and from there you can “chat” about the other persons organisation, what job they do, which gives you the ideal opportunity to see whether or not they have any openings. If they do, ask for the person’s business card, and promise to follow up the next day with your Resume or a phone call.

And that is the second rule of events – make sure your resume is up to date. Make sure it is not scrumpled, creased or covered in coffee stains. Do not take these to the event, people do not want to be carrying around bits of paper – especially when they are trying to eat and drink.

When polite to do so, move on to the next person. Treat these events like modern “speed dating” find out what you need to know and then move on to the next person.

Do not stick like a limpet to the person you went with, nor should you spend all your time with people that you know and have spoken to before. This may be a great time to catch up with old friends and acquaintances, but it is unlikely to net you anything of worth…because if you already knew these people, they would have been on your chart, and you would have already contacted them. You would wouldn’t you?

Be remembered for the right reasons:

Do not monopolise the conversation about how bad your job is, your boss and your work colleagues. As you may have gathered, the profession that we are in a very small one, and people talk. And given how big our own spheres, we have noway of knowing just how big everyone else’s personal spheres of influence are.

Be remembered as the person who asked the right questions – but a word of advice, don’t stand and listen to anyone else whinge about how bad their job is etc etc. This will only bring you down, and we don’t want anything to dampen our enthusiasm for plucking up the courage to get out and attend the event.

Try not to drink too much. You may be feeling very nervous – but chances are you will be driving home, so be careful. On my way home last night, there was a booze bus set up, and they were stopping people…it was 5.20pm. As we are coming up to the “silly season” make sure that you eat enough food to soak up the alcohol. But don’t eat more than you should! Who wants to be remembered as the person who stuffed several of the nice chocolate bikkies in their bag to eat on the way home?

And remember, it is not necessarily who you know that is the most important…but who knows you. Remember we all have our own personal spheres of influence. And if the six degrees of separation is accurate, we can be linked to almost anyone on this earth – with 5 or less connections. 

News from the Office

During the Christmas and New Year break the offices will be undergoing a re-fit.

What does that mean to you? Well the offices will be closing at 12 noon on the 22nd December and we will not be able to re-open until 8.30 am on Monday 8th January 2007. Whilst a few of us will be able to answer e-mail inquiries from home, we will not be able to make any placements during this time. So if you have any questions or queries with regards to your contracts, pay, superannuation etc etc can you please telephone the offices well in advance of the closure.

Having spoken to Rachel this morning – she has advised me that you will need to get your timesheets in to the office by 9.00am on Friday 22nd December so that you can be paid. Normally we come into the office between the two public holidays to handle this side of things, but as we said earlier, we are physically not going to be able to…so no time sheet, no money I am afraid.

If you do need to speak to someone during the office closure please use the emergency telephone numbers listed in your Registrants Handbook or on the advice sheet Rachel sent out to you with your last payslip.

A Thought to Ponder
“Believe that you can, and you can. Belief is one of the most powerful of all problem dissolvers. When you believe that a difficulty can be overcome, you are more than halfway to victory over it already.
Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993)
American Writer and Minister