3 tips for preventing holiday network weight gain

The Brief?
As sure as the days are getting shorter and the air a little chillier, the holiday season carries with it a certain sense of gluttony. Sure, there are the endless parties, professional, familial and friendly. But it’s not the canapés and mini cheesecakes you need to worry about; it’s the added padding to your network that could end up weighing you down in the new year.

Whether you’re talking about pie or professional connections, the notion that more is better is hard to avoid any time of year. Old-school networking was about who could amass the fattest Rolodex, but these days, it’s easier than ever to meet people in an outside your industry; what counts is the quality of those connections. How do make sure your network isn’t just a lot of dead weight? Here are three tips on what to look for when building your relationship capital:
1. Diversity
One sure way to make your network sluggish and inefficient is by populating it with people of similar backgrounds, experience and expertise. By dint of the positive tension it creates, diversity breeds creativity, which means a diverse collection of contacts is more likely to help you solve your problems as well as provide solutions for other members of your network. Age and gender are the bare minimum; you should be thinking of diversity in terms of industry, sector, experience level, even geography.
2. Super-connectors
Otherwise known as that guys who’ve always “got a guy,” super-connectors are the alphas of the modern network; they’ve already established lean, diverse collections of contacts across multiple industries, and they’re always willing to lend a hand to a member, with a job referral, a warm introduction or just some advice over coffee. Before you can be a super-connector, however, you have to know some. Their well-stocked networks can translate to solutions for your own web of connections, and, over time, help elevate you to “super” status yourself.
3. Horizontal and vertical contacts
It’s natural to think that the easiest way to achieve your goals, personally and professionally, is to fill your network with people who occupy roles you aspire to: the board director of the nonprofit you volunteer at on weekends, your boss’ boss, the hotshot venture capitalist you went to business school with. And while it’s vitally important that some of your network slots be filled by these types, it’s also critical that you draw in younger professionals: junior executives, former mentees, etc.

Why? This goes to the heart of what most people don’t understand about the modern network (and really, the true message of the holiday season). It’s not about what you can get from your relationships, it’s what you can give.

RelSci helps create competitive advantage for leading corporate, financial and nonprofit organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers. ????

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