Your Three Main Network Groups. Use With Care.


I recently spoke to someone going through a re-org within a large MNC, unsure whether he’ll stay longer or be asked to move on. In the meantime, he was sending out notes to everyone he knew. The “Putting-Out-The-Word” shuffle, getting hold of the most valuable contacts to see if they could help. He wasn’t having much luck.

On the other side of the spectrum, I also spoke to a friend who’s a regional President, and the recipient of many such requests. In a genuine position of power, he often sighs when receiving such notes.

People are often convinced he can ‘get them in’ or ‘help get them another job” because of his title. He can’t, of course. But he was resolute in stating to me that he would absolutely help if it was clear what the person was aiming for, and try to make a match. More than likely he could do so only one time (per person), but was unambiguous in saying he’d help if it was clear, manageable and not too labour intensive.

When deep in the chaos of looking in all directions for career options and career help, it’s easy to lose the mooring. The only one who can really help you is you. We all know that, but hope that someone else bails us out..

However, it is abundantly clear that plenty of people in your network will assist. Plenty.You thus must use it often and innovatively.
A  professional and personal network is unequal. If the rules are misunderstood at the start, you’ll piss everyone off. Especially yourself.

When putting yourself in the market, whether for the very first time ever or in decades, the immutable law is to use your network in a targeted way, never scatter-shot.

These are relationships with people, not robots. They occupy different rungs on your ladder, and must be approached accordingly.Simple, no?

Let’s look at the three main circles.

Circle 1: Good friends and family.

Very important in giving support, reminding you of your worth, value and heart. This group is vital, and cannot be undervalued.  You can–and should– lean on them for emotional support; we all need it, some times more than not. They can’t fix the world’s injustices, but can-and will- reinforce how valuable you are. The ‘rainy-day’ people we all rely on.

Circle 2: Acquaintances.

The main focus of your networking. Those who are acquainted with you, for the most part professionally. They may not know you well, or may have known you a few years ago. They are what Adam Grant calls ‘weak ties’, as they are often out of your immediate circle, and thus have a different and often novel outlook and different network themselves.

That’s important, as they view you differently than your peers or immediate network, where everyone has a similar perspective. This then is the group that is larger than you realise, and will move you out of your immediate comfort zone.

Circle 3: ‘Silver Bullets’

A small number of people who actually do have power. This is, of course, your smallest network, and the easiest one to use incorrectly. They have influence, and can often use it.

This group should be viewed as your last rather than first recourse. Why? That’s the ‘silver-bullet’; you don’t want to ask for a favour unless you know exactly what you want, stating so both directly and subtly. They’ll have little time, so expect the “what do you need?’ question very quickly. Know what you want to ask, and make it tangible. Many will be able to open a door, but ONLY if you’re specific, understated, and do not ask them for anything too large or awkward. And if you’re not ready, wait until you are. You’ll know.


Network circles have tremendous utility, all with different uses. Do not mistake one circle for another. Actors who study their audience before they start will change their lines and cadences accordingly to engage the crowd. Do the same thing. Know whom you’re addressing.

I had a coffee the other day with another friend. He mentioned in passing someone we both vaguely know, who’d been drumming up business for his new company. My friend’s comment was a passing one, how odd it was that he’d received a mass email, asking if anyone could help give some business to build this new venture. That was over 4 years ago, by the way. No circles there.

Never think one approach to all your contacts works equally well. It doesn’t.

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