Our closest contacts know the same people and information we do. By neglecting our “weaker” connections, we may be missing out on job leads and good advice. Executives who sought guidance on a project from distant ties received more valuable solutions and referrals than they did from close friends or colleagues, one study found. Cultivate those weak links—and add new life to your network.
Exploit new tech: Enterprise Jungle is a free Web service that sits atop your LinkedIn account and—based on your skills, work history and achievements—introduces you to peer-level professionals you should know. Trendr, a free iPhone and Android app, takes the introduction a step further by connecting your LinkedIn account with GPS, allowing you to see professionals of similar seniority who are nearby and open to meeting. Once you select a person, Trendr will send a meeting request.
Email that friend you’ve lost touch with: Someone you knew way back when can be a gold mine of new information and will be easier to connect with than a total stranger because of your shared history.
Be where your peers are—not: If you’re in human resources, for example, attend an event for finance executives. “The goal is to get exposure beyond your current world,” says Jayne Mattson, senior vice president of Keystone Associates, a Boston career-management firm. Before you go, develop a 30-second “commercial” about why you are there (for instance, “I’m interested in exploring ways in which HR and finance departments can partner more effectively”).
Volunteer within your company: Does your office have a community-involvement program or ad hoc committee that organizes social events? Any professional project that involves cross-functional teams will offer you exposure out of your network.
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