Archive for July, 2009

Professional networking encompasses two distinct areas that, when put together, gives us the definition of a professional network.

Let’s start by looking at the dictionary definition of the term networking. Webster says that networking is “the development of contacts or exchanging of information with others in an informal network, as to further a career.”

Now think about this in terms of professional networking. Often times, everyone’s purpose of networking differs. But from a professional standpoint, it shouldn’t. A professional networker should approach networking with the following mindset: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you”.

This mindset can be a bit confusing. Some people will take that statement to mean: “I need to show up and throw up about who I am and what my business does”. That’s the complete opposite way to go about it.

Back in 1936, Dale Carnegie wrote (in the book How to Win Friends and Influence People) six ways to make people like you. The first point he made is this: become genuinely interested in other people. Dale Carnegie goes on to say that “for people to get to know who you are, you first need to get to know who they are”.

So Dale and I agree. “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you”. But how many people need to know you?

British anthropologist Robin Dunbar found a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. (Dunbar, R.I.M. (1993), Coevolution of neocortical size, group size and language in humans, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 (4): 681-735.).

Dunbar predicted a “mean group size” of 148. We’ll round this number off to 150. This means professional networking should produce a network that has a size of approximately 150 people.

Again, our mindset is “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you”. So, I like to add the Pareto’s Principle (the 80-20 Rule) to the Dunbar number.

Mathematically, these are how these two principles work out: (150 x .20) x 30 = 900.

Defining Professional Networking

Let’s break that formula down. Using your Dunbar number of 150 people, we multiply it by 20% which gives us 30 people. These 30 people are part of your primary network. Every one of these 30 people also has a Dunbar number of 150 and, applying the same calculation, each of the 30 people in your primary network have 30 primary connections. Therefore, it’s a simple mathematic equation of 30 multiplied by 30, equally 900.

In the end, we have this definition of professional networking: Professional networking is developing 150 relationships/connections with the intent of these individuals getting to know you.

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