The most powerful tool that a professional can have is their network. In a world where information is increasingly free, a personal network of strong relationships is often the winning variable. In technology transfer, this network is what helps programs develop, makes business deals happen, and delivers results in one of the most complex and political environments around.
Before defining what I mean by “networked”, I want to start with what it is not. I have created “Old Maid” archetypes for these individuals —the Great Gastbys of the professional world:
Larry/Lisa LinkedIn : Some people collect baseball cards or decorative spoons. Larry collects connections…feverously. It’s a numbers game for this one—a race to 500+ LinkedIn profile badge and an unattainable run at Gerald Haman status. Larry is successful of building a “phonebook” full of people that will never call him back.
Bill/Beverly Big-Talk: Like a bad golf swing, Bill over-reaches on his backswing, and has little to no follow-through. His networks grow on a belief in his promise to deliver anything and everything. Bill is the “Yes Man”, who flips through a rolodex of let-down index cards.
Gina/Gary Glad-hand: Gina is a master at being at the right event, shaking the right hands, and posing to the right of the right person in pictures. She is the White House party-crasher of the political scene—the person that is always visible, but rarely valuable. The self-imagined mountain she stands on is about as big as the illusion of her network.
These individuals treat their network as acquaintances, where as a “networked” person treats their network like a long-term relationship. This person knows that they will get out what they put in, and while the task is more demanding, the return will be substantive.
When placing for jobs in technology transfer, I identify “networked” individuals on the following criteria:
- Adds value to their networks: They grow their network by working on their existing relationships. This might include regular, personal communication or the sharing of information and insights. The person that gives without the expectation of reciprocity.
- Has an engaged stable of mentors: Leaders actively mentor leaders. I look to those who are able to attract and retain the attention of those that have been in the game and excelled. It signals that this person is seen as a valuable addition to the community, and one that will be able to tap into this pool of experience in future positions.
- Grows a strategic, comprehensive network: They actively look for inspiring ideas, fresh thinkers, and “odd” connections. This person understands that that technology transfer and the world of innovation require a wide net. They also understand their role as mentors to the next tier of leaders starts with identifying this value.
So, the next time that you click on the “connect” button next to someone’s name or accept a business card, be sure to find out what they need and then deliver. Start putting in the extra effort to build real relationships, and you might find yourself the most “networked” person around.
Want to play another “Old Maid” archetype? Know another way to spot a “networked” individuals? Let us hear it.
Quality #5: Stable