When we hear the phrase “net worth,” it is almost always in reference to someone’s financial position. That is, what is the value of someone’s assets minus liabilities? While that is a good thing to know for oneself, I believe the phrase can be used in a new way now that personal networks are such a vital part of our lives.
The idea for this post came from seeing a tweet by Dan Pontefract (@DPontefract) on January 25 that said, “my network *is* my net worth.” The tweet linked to the press release “Most Expect to Get New Job by Networking” from Right Management, the workforce consulting experts within ManpowerGroup. The release discusses survey results which showed that 50% of respondents expect to find their next job via networking, while 22% expect to do so through a job board, 10% through an agency/recruiter, 8% by directly approaching businesses and 1% through a newspaper or periodical (how are newspapers still in existence?).
As someone who puts great value in his personal network of personal and professional contacts, I resonate with the survey results and am surprised, frankly, that the 50% figure wasn’t higher. Give it a year or two and I’m confident it will be much higher.
As I think about the value of a personal network, the primary benefit for me is not for job searching. It is for learning. For the past few years, the primary way I have learned is by following key people on Twitter who are leaders in fields I care about. The blogs, reports, white papers, surveys, infographics, books and articles these people link to, their insights shared, and the incredible opportunity to have direct online conversations with them make the world of knowledge available to everyone who chooses to take advantage of the social technologies at their fingertips.
Learning professionals talk about personal learning networks as sources for individuals to learn via informal connections with others. If you’re interested, grab your favorite beverage, do a Google search on the topic and spend some time perusing the 147 million search results on the term.
Personal networks consist of connections you have with people you see in person as well as others online you may never have met face to face. Personal networks are not the same thing as online social networks, although the people you connect with online are part of (and perhaps the largest part of) your personal network.
I encourage everyone to continually work on expanding their personal network – their “net worth” – both for the value you can bring to them and for the opportunities such connections bring your way. Don’t expand your networks just to take without giving, though. That’s against the spirit of a true network where each person plays an important part. Expand because you have a thirst for knowledge, a desire to help as many others as possible, a yearning to expand your horizons through rich communication with others around the world, and you will find that you end up gaining as much or more than you give in the process.
You may have additional reasons for and uses of a personal network beyond the professional and learning focus that most interests me. Regardless of your motivation, I encourage you to pause and ask yourself “What is my ‘net worth’? What can you do today to increase it?”