I'm reading an excellent book titled "Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives" (2009) by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. They delve into the social theory underlying the impact that our social networks have on our lives. The bottom line is that we are influenced by, and we are able to influence, people up to three degrees removed from us. With that thought in mind, now look at your social network within three degrees from yourself. Are these the people you want shaping nearly every aspect of your life? Does this group have enough depth and breadth? Should you expand this group?
One way to grow your social network, especially benefiting your career, is to join a professional association. Once you do, you must decide how to utilize that membership to gain the greatest value. Some people believe an association membership is something that is passively done to them, rather than an active starting point for their own action. Being an active member in a professional association can:
- Open doors to new opportunities
- Connect you with like-minded individuals
- Connect you with respected colleagues holding differing opinions or perspectives
- Provide a venue to share solutions
- Land you your next job
- Even set you apart as a thought leader
It is all in how you use it to your advantage.
You can also gain additional credibility and recognition as a product manager by writing and submitting articles, which you can do from anywhere in the world, or participate in online board or forums. You can volunteer at local or regional events. Or you can volunteer to mentor a "newbie" in the field.
As competition continues to be fierce in the job market, with many applicants from great universities with advanced degrees and experience, one factor that can set you apart is your professional social network. An extensive network is a resource from which you can draw at will. Consider these people your eyes and ears on the ground. Whether you meet in a terrestrial based regional group, or expand to connect globally via the internet, the success of your connections will be based on the amount of effort you put in.
I consider one's social network as a definite career asset. What is your social net worth? Are you wealthy, barely breaking even, or bankrupt?
"While social networks are fundamentally and distinctively human, and ubiquitous, they should not be taken for granted."
Christakis & Fowler