Don’t Network, Develop Your Social Capital

I find that the trouble most people have with “networking” boils down to two things:

  1. It scares the-you-know what out of them.

    Someone recently came to me seeking advice on how to advance his career. This happens a lot, but his response was interesting.  I told him to start networking. He responded that under no uncertain circumstances was he going to do that because it just wasn’t his personality.  He went on to say that if he had to be someone he is not to get ahead, then he shouldn’t do it. He wasn’t going to try to kiss you-know-what to get ahead.  I think manipulative, political behavior and networking were somehow synonyms to him; it seemed like it was some moral issue for him the way he presented it.  In other words all that he was saying was, networking scares the-you-know what out of me, so I’m not going to do it.

  2. The second reason stems from the first and is also seen in this example.  It’s quite frankly that people see networking as something it is not.  It is not about kissing up to someone, being entirely self-centered, or coming across as a used car salesman.


So let’s get rid of the word networking.

Now I tell people to develop their social capital.   What is social capital you say?  Google it and this is what you get:

“Social capital refers to the collective value of all “social networks” [who people know] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other [“norms of reciprocity”].”

So social capital is whom you know and whom they know, and the inclination of those who know each to do things for each other.

It’s not a one-sided thing; it’s a win-win thing, and unlike “human capital” that we talk a lot about and is related to what one person brings to the table, it is not what you know as an individual, but whom you know and what they know (or whom they know) that makes the difference. John Donne told us this quite a while ago before social media was even around, “No Man is an Island.”

From a job search and hiring perspective, it indicates that what some people refer to as the “good ole boy network” is still much needed to get a job and advance- let’s hope with a lot more diversity to it these days- but it also, and maybe more importantly, relates to how good you can be at your job. You can’t know it all.

Social capital gives us all a competitive advantage. How are you building your social capital to create win-wins?


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Mary Ila Ward