Although I have an on-line profile, my strongest networks are offline. At 40-something, I am part of an over-achieving, overcommitted, over-programmed generation of double income professionals who volunteer in their communities, shuttle children between organized sports, fund raise constantly and vacation in the tropics. Many of us are on second marriages or in the process of separating. Our spouses work shift work or out of town. On top of that, life happens: children in intensive care, major surgery, aging parents, learning disabilities. When I say: my-kids-have-events-in-different-cities-this-weekend-my-husband-works-nights-and-I'm-wired-at-work, my peers all nod cuz they can relate.
So, perhaps I should read this assignment as: maximize professional social networks and generate value through existing connections. For me, "the way [I] understand and experience [my] own social networks" (week 10 blog assignment) is more than mathematical nodes, linkers and clusters. Networks are about people: relationships, value and meaning. And finding balance within this complex system is everything.
This is the trickiest part. The PhD helped you define your goals, your plan, your strategy, but now he's gone back to his West Coast beach house. Now what? You're left with a really great idea and a bunch of people who are overcommitted. Its time to think about what that goal means or what your intent is. What do you want people to do to make that big idea happen? In return, are you asking what you can do for others and listening carefully to their answers? Learn. Share. Connect.
I have learned that growing professional social networks begins with relationships and trust, authenticity and accountability. Recognizing your potential to link groups that might not otherwise be connected adds value. Listening, sharing and learning adds meaning. We are surrounded by complex network systems, and recognizing our place within these networks is critical to our success.