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How to increase our circles of influence by purposeful networking

Steven B. McKinney | Oct. 11, 2022

The pandemic influenced a shift in how we communicate and network. Research shows that people's networks shrank by nearly 16% during the recent pandemic. This decrease is primarily due to less interaction with strangers and more interaction with family and close friends. And the total number of family and friends in our inner circle is small. This smaller inner circle contrasts too our much larger outer rings of contacts.

The "Six degrees of Separation" philosophy suggests we are all connected through five intermediaries or less. These circles of influence beyond our first inner circle have more contacts the further you go. So, to grow our network exponentially, we need to increase our outer circles of influence.

We should have a defined purpose to increase our influence and grow our network. For networking's sake alone, networking serves no meaningful purpose and could be counterproductive. However, your networking will be more effective when you identify a specific purpose.

Better yet, find a higher purpose if you are serious about succeeding. Focusing on a higher purpose will be the cornerstone of your networking strategy. For example, a higher purpose in performance coaching could be to help others achieve their potential.

In addition, I recently read about a woman that did not like to network. Her colleagues reminded her that women's voices are underrepresented in business and that the media attention she could receive by speaking up would help counter gender bias.

So, we must focus on developing our network of contacts with a higher purpose. Otherwise, our network will continue to shrink.

Once you have identified your higher purpose, you're ready to develop a networking plan. There is much to consider in formulating your networking plan. Here are a few thoughts for your consideration. These ideas are in no particular order and are not exclusive to everything you should consider. Hopefully, this will get you in the mindset to refine and shine your thoughts.

  • Making connections is more difficult now post-pandemic
  • Many contacts hunger for interaction
  • Not everyone enjoys networking
  • Introverts generally find it more challenging than extroverts
  • Consider changing your mindset to more of a learning focus in your networking activities
  • Identify the shared interests of others in your network selection pool
  • It is better to give than receive
  • Learn how to ask for introductions in a professional way
  • Expressing thanks goes a long way in building a network

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