How to Think About Your Professional Network
3 min read

How to Think About Your Professional Network

Networking becomes much easier and more effective when you understand how to think about it. So, how should you think about it?
How to Think About Your Professional Network

A trade is the unit of currency for any network.

This goes back to our earliest days. Think about a tribe. The people in a tribe came together for a common goal, to survive. At the center of this agreement was a complex series of trades.

Each trade helped one member achieve their goal:

  • Food in return for protection.
  • Clean water in return for clothing.
  • Shelter in return for companionship.

And so on it goes on such that every member of the tribe contributes, and every member has their basic needs provided. Across a complex series of trades, everyone gets the food, water, clothing, shelter, safety, friendship, love and feeling of belonging they need.

There is another distinctive element of a network.

These trades don’t all happen at the same time. Food is provided before protection. Water before the clothing is made. Companionship even as the shelter is being built.

That means that by definition there is the element of trust built into the core of a network. Someone must always go first, and trust that the other person will respond in kind when the time comes. Still, even 2,000 years ago, every member of the tribe was a contributor to this merry-go-round of trades.

By banding together, the network gets more powerful. Bigger tribes had more safety in numbers, more resources to trade with and as a result, grew even bigger still.

These days people in communities, workplaces and marketplaces all around the world come together to facilitate transactions, share information, make personal recommendations, provide introductions and share opportunities.

The common denominator is still a trade.

This is the core concept at the core of networking. A series of trades, or transactions, made over and over again are what make networks, well, work. In the cold light of day, networking is as calculated as this: Identifying, arranging and executing beneficial trades.

That’s it.

Understanding that trades are at the center of every network is essential to developing a plan to create your ideal network. It will allow you to design your own network around only the most high-value trades possible to you at any point in time, and efficiently and effectively achieve your goals.

To focus your efforts, you only need to answer a short list of questions:

  • What unique assets do I have to trade?
  • Who would be interested in my unique assets?
  • How am I going to connect with these people to make the first trade?

Repeat this process, over and over again. As time goes on and you add new unique assets (information, knowledge and skills) to your repertoire, you will refresh your list and expand your target relationships.

A thriving, strong and meaningful network is not something you build overnight. It is something that takes time, thought and commitment. This isn’t for you if you’re looking for a quick fix. It is for you if you are committed, looking to provide value to others, and interested in a super efficient way to build a high value network.

Remember, if trades are a currency then relationships are wealth.

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Overall I believe this is a surprisingly simple and accurate way to understand networking. Networks are built on trades and at the heart of every functioning network is a series of trades between participants who trust each other.

Thinking of networking as a series of trades might sound cold and calculated. But in the best functioning networks, the ones that last over time, there’s always a good intention built in. That’s where the trust comes in. You can’t skip that step.

There is good intention built into the very core of this theory.

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about focusing on the trades you want to get back from others, only the access you will provide to others. Also, wasting time when networking doesn’t help anyone. By being efficient and effective not only do you save time for others, but you buy more time for everyone to spend with friends and family, or to do other productive activities.

Before you go: I have interviewed 500+ professionals, surveyed thousands more, and I am always probing for their best tips, tricks and hacks to get ahead. There are five that stand out above the rest and you can get them right now by joining my free email list. You won’t find these ideas anywhere else.