Life-Work Wednesday | Who is in your current career network? Who else should be included?

My current network is 98% comprised of people I have worked with at my past two employers and a bunch of people I went to school with. Add in a smattering of folks I’ve met through professional conferences, a few friends of friends, and the couple hundred miscellaneous “connections” that exist purely through LinkedIn and I’d estimate I’ve got roughly 1,000 people to reach out to for professional services and guidance.

Can that be right?

Earlier this week, I read an article summarizing the newest study from Oxford psychologist Robin Dunbar. This report concluded that the average social media (Facebook) user has an average of 150 “friends”, yet may only be able to really count on four of them through thick or thin. The report breaks down these support networks into different levels of intimacy (and support), assigning different headcounts to each. The overarching theme is that many of our connections are tenuous, which supports research from the pre-social media age, when similar ratios were identified.

That’s interesting and maybe a bit scary. But the study also states the relatively low number of close friendships is due to the relatively high amount of energy and attention we put into them. Our interest and affection is apparently a limited resource, so we each must choose wisely how to spend it.

So, who do I really want in my network? And why?

I’m really glad to have the professional connections I’ve collected through my decade in human resources. I’m also looking forward to building relationships with people in a variety of fields, especially performance artists, digital nomads, and simplicity gurus. It’s been noted in other research that the most creative, disruptive individuals have a wide and varied network. And as the saying goes, make new friends and keep the old…

Check back each week for my response to the newest #lifeworkwednesday question. Follow me (@Betzeliah) and join the conversation each Wednesday on Twitter.

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