Understand, develop and contribute to your network

Published on 21/09/2020
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To move forward in your career or find a new job, nowadays understanding how to approach your network is a big step in the right direction. But how best to understand your network, develop and contribute to it? To answer these questions, we interviewed Sandrine Dufour* (BBA EDHEC 1996), a professional coach and member of the EDHEC Alumni Board of Trustees. In this article you won’t find any magic recipe but instead an approach to networking that begins with essential work on developing the self and the vision one has of one’s network.

 

  • What is a network ?

By definition, a network is a set of elements linked to one another. To make this clearer, Sandrine Dufour often presents the network as an image depicting neural functions and neurocognitive development, i.e. the capacity of neurons to connect with one another. These connections are not always immediate, which is why a network must be in a constant state of movement to facilitate the creation of links: a “seed” you planted 2 years ago can suddenly spring up as a new connection that will serve your ambitions.

  • Why is it important to map your network ?

Throughout your life, you establish links with family and friends, during your studies, leisure activities and career. All of those people form a network and belong to different spheres in your life. Each network is unique as it reflects each member’s personality. Any given individual will therefore have a different network to their neighbour, friend, colleague or family member.

In the approach Sandrine recommends, mapping one’s network is essential as “it allows you to have a tangible and exhaustive representation of all the people with whom you have established direct or indirect links.”

In order to be aware of the elements/people who make up your network, it is important to sit down and take the time to map it out, to understand what and who it is made up of, and to visualise the different interconnections between each component.

To do this, you can divide it into categories: family, studies, leisure activities, work, associations, friends, relationships formed through your children, “miscellaneous relationships”, etc. This breakdown will give you an overview and you can then study the different interconnections between each individual.

 

 

  • Do you need a big network to find a job or develop your business?

That’s a question we all ask ourselves one day! And so we put it to Sandrine for expert analysis: “each of us needs to be at ease with our network. It is not the number of connections that counts, but the way they are structured: the multiple links between those connections and their quality, synergies and dynamics. You might seek fulfilment in a very broad network or, on the contrary, prefer to have a restricted network with more “proximity”. It is also up to each of us to decide WHO should be included in our career-minded approach. So while some people are uneasy mixing their personal and professional lives, others have a more concentric life and will include all its different dimensions in their network. That’s why if you ask 10 different people, “what is a network?”, you’ll get different answers!”

 

  • How can a network help you achieve your ambitions?

In the approach recommended by Sandrine Dufour, clarifying your intentions is a crucial phase: “What motivates you in your network contacts, what are your ambitions and how can this network help you?” Once you have mapped out your network, it is important to work on your intentions and recognise them. We are not talking here about objectives, but rather intentions. What’s the difference? An intention is an idea, an end goal, while an objective is quantifiable, precise and limited.

Approaching your network with only an objective in mind may lead to frustration and disappointment. Don’t allow yourself to be hemmed in by overly specific objectives; instead take a broader view so you don’t miss out on opportunities. If you approach your network with real intention, you open yourself up and you will be driven by something. So if you meet someone from your network focusing solely on them giving you a job, you might walk away with the impression that the encounter was a failure if they don’t hire you. But if your intention is to find a job, that person might not hire you but will perhaps offer you some advice, give you other contacts, share their experience or broaden your understanding of a particular sector. And so you will have gained something, enriched your relationship and your network, thus helping you to achieve your ambitions.

 

  • How should we introduce ourselves, and what’s the right attitude to adopt ?

We often run the risk of being reductive in terms of our multiple identities. Sometimes we forget the person we were 10 years ago. It is important to go through all of your identities and talents, all of your potential and the different components that make up your identity. You should be aware of them. We are all many-sided diamonds!”

 

To guide you along this path, in this article Sandrine Dufour shares the process that she recommends to her clients, based on the 4 facets of our identity:

  • How do I see myself (skills, experiences, expertise, self-confidence)?
  • How do I think others see me AND what weight or importance do I attach to that exterior perspective?
  • What parts of my identity do I make visible (how do I present my identity on social media)?
  • What are my references, the people who inspire me, my beliefs and values?

 

It is important to answer these questions as objectively as possible, to take the time to include all aspects and ensure consistency between these 4 considerations.

Are you aware of your different identities, the many sides of your diamond? Remember, you don’t have to display them all!

 

 

We aren’t robots, and a big part of human relationships is about intuition, something this article can’t really address.It’s important to adapt to the person opposite you and the context,” says Sandrine. She recommends asking yourself this question if necessary: “Is this relevant and opportune?” Is it relevant to talk to this person about your personal life? Is it opportune in terms of your intention? “You can be sincere and authentic without being completely transparent!”

The most important thing in approaching your network is to do away with your preconceptions, but also not to do the other person’s thinking for them. Although relationships in a network are built up together and about sharing, all of us at some point have felt as if we were bothering someone, asking too much. “Don’t be afraid to make your request,” Sandrine emphasises. If that request is consistent with your intentions, if it is “relevant and opportune”, if it is authentic, then the other person will share something that can help you. Some advice, a business card or perhaps agree to meet you. Ultimately, it matters little as long as your relationship with that person progresses. “Be patient, agile and open!”

 

  • What’s the best action plan to put in place?

Once again, there is no miracle answer. We all have different desires, objectives, intentions and paths. There can’t be a single action plan that is best!” However, Sandrine has a few tips that might help. First, don’t rush into actions without first adjusting them, i.e. working on the self, your identities, mapping your network and intentions. Open up to others, exchange and share. Regularly ask yourself these 3 questions to update your action plan:

  • Which intentions have I re-clarified?
  • Which part of my identity have I decided to display more openly?
  • With my new intentions, which tangible and specific steps do I want to take?

Lastly, evaluate your own actions, consider the initiatives you have taken and the outcomes. Have you made progress? Are your intentions clear?

 

As you can see, Sandrine Dufour’s approach is a process that requires real efforts in terms of self-development, your perception of your network and your place within it. Don’t forget to include the EDHEC Alumni community in your network, with more than 46,000 students and graduates around the world! The EDHEC Resources, identified by a small R in the online directory, are on hand to answer your questions and requests. As well as this vast community, the Career Centre and EDHEC Alumni association have a wide range of services for graduates, including events, get-togethers, theme-specific and local clubs, job offers and career support services that will also help you contribute to and develop your network. Lastly, be sure to carry out long-term assessments of your progress with the many EDHEC graduates working as professional coaches, so you can go even further in this approach and use it as a lever to boost your personal and professional development.

 

* Sandrine Dufour is a professional coach and Etiomedecine® practitioner who has been awarded the CT®TRANSFORMANCE PRO label. She also created the Full Potential Philosophy® brand. She can offer support to each of you on your professional and personal journeys. Sandrine ran group coaching sessions reserved for EDHEC alumni about the right approach to networking as part of the 2020 Alumni Summer Session. She is also a member of the EDHEC Alumni Board of Trustees.

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