Criteria for a strategic network

It's not important what your strategy is -just that you have one

So what criteria do you use to create your network? Who is missing? Who do you need to add? What strategic alliances can you create?

Although not an open networker, I am a strategic one and I have over time become an advocate of the theory that there is strength in a weak network. I don’t  connect with just anyone and everyone, but I don’t mind if I don’t know the individual personally. That particular connection may not be directly helpful, but perhaps will be connected to someone who might be. Being pathologically curious I am always open to meeting new people.

Everyone will have different needs when creating a strong network. It will depend on age, level of experience and the type of professional activity you have and of course your personality and career goals. It’s not important what your strategy is – just that you have one and it works for you. And it should be effective and support your main goals, rather than a time consuming end itself. It’s not about building up numbers for their own sakes . So what do I look for when I try to extend my network whether on-line or IRL (In Real Life)?

  • Professional connections:  I try to link to people who are well-connected in my areas of special interest: executive search, coaching, career transition, and women’s issues in the workplace.  I aim for balance. For me this is very much related to the sharing of experiences and ideas and intellectual stimulation, as much as their influence .
  • Established and /or senior connections and allies: I look  to connect with some people who are deeply established in their field or holding senior positions in their organisations.  A quiet word from them in the appropriate ear can carry a lot of weight. If you are in any organisation, these are key contacts, especially if you are junior and they will act as a mentor or better still a sponsor and advocate for you.
  • Junior connections:  I love being connected to #GenY in particular. As we get older and more set in our ways we need the energy of this generation to keep us in touch. Even if you are entry-level, there will still be people behind you!
  • Peer connections : these are people doing what you do and can understand any major issues you might have. They might be good contacts to confide in, but be cautious also, you may end up competing against them for work, a contract or even a job.
  • Sector connections: I like and need to stay in touch with different sectors – specific industries and functions, coaching , sourcing, executive search and so on. This is about staying up to date
  • Geographic connections:    I work internationally, so I ask myself the question : have I got all the key contacts in specific locations that I could tap into if needed? Which area needs strengthening?
  • Connectors:  If needed, who will be my  go-to “connector”, the super networker, the person to whom I could pose the question” who do you know?”
  • Local connections:  contacts based in the places where I spend most time. There is no substitute for dealing with people face to face – especially if they are just down the road.
  • Specialists: unless we are all-singing and all-dancing, all of the time, we cannot do without the specialists whose passion and skill makes what they do invaluable. Whether this is the web designer, presentation expert, DIY fiends or even a walking restaurant directory.
  •  Information generators:  some people like to be totally up to the minute and they save us all a lot of time researching current events and developments.  Do you want to know something obscure? Then these are your go-to people.  We all need a few of those fabulous time- savers in our midst!
  • Devils advocates :   I’m very opinionated, so other great additions to my, or any network, (even if you are not) are the ones who will challenge the flaws in your argument! Definitely track down a few of those. It’s not good to surround yourself with clones of yourself.
  • Social connections: we all need to have fun and very often people we know socially have  the most surprising connections. Some are just plain likeable!

Who would you add? Let’s connect:


Dorothy Dalton

15 thoughts on “Criteria for a strategic network

  1. Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach

    Great post Dorothy, I love meeting new people too but I am a bit more selective than you are. I do not like to follow automatically people who follow me on Twitter so I take the time everyday to read profiles and blogs before following. I am even more selective on Linkedin but I may add in my network people who commented in groups for example and try to follow-up by phone. On my Facebook profile I have created different lists so I can choose to send some types of information to some specific friends. I don’t give access to anybody to look at my family pictures for example,Oon my business FB fan page I accept anyone but I have not created yet a way to be interactive as much as I am on Linkedin and Twitter. Thanks for sharing

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Anne – yes I would always check profiles and apply some general common sense. I have found that being open has led me to be connected to some very interesting and stimumlating people! We didn’t know each other once. Hope all is well in US!

  2. marion chapsal (@MarionChapsal)

    Perfect synchronicity, Dorothy, since I just facilitated a networking for the WPNG anglophone professional women group in Lyon. Building a strategic network requires that you already have a sort of “strategy” and here, I’m afraid women I met had none and soon realized the necessity of building an action plan.
    Excellent list. Who would I add?
    I tend to look for 3 kind of people:

    1. Role Models
    2. Support people
    3. Taskmasters
    The two first come rather naturally, and you included them in your own list. For the third category, I’ve developed a kind of discipline and it helps me greatly achieve my goals. They are people who set the bar and hold you accountable. @MaryLoft on Twitter has been doing that for example for me. Twitter’s byproduct can strengthen this aspect. I found myself announcing something and a few days after, having Mary kindly asked how it was progressing and if I could share…Damned! I had no choice but to complete the task!
    An excellent reading I recommend is on The GlassHammer, Follow-Up, Three ways to Reconnect this Fall.
    Cheers to the Networking Queen!

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Thanks Marion as the first Twitter connection to become IRl for me, amidst deep suspicion in my family that you might be potentially a male axe murderer – which you are clearly not!

      Yes good specified addition – I think the ones that hold us accountable can come in several catergories. For me they are on my ” Devils Advocate” list . They are the “put your money where your mouth is and deliver” connections. Sadly they are nowhere to be found on social media!

    2. Mary Loftus

      Thanks Marion – ironically I think I was giving you what I needed for myself at the time! When we work independently this is a very real need – someone to just ask (kindly) how things are going and whether we are on schedule. My sister and I used to try doing this for each other – but we were too close to take it seriously. It always ended in belly-laughs instead of accountability 🙂

      Also, if you’re badly stuck on something, you need someone outside the project to hold up the mirror. When someone inside asks how things are going, I find myself trying to convince them and myself that everything is OK. But an outsider brings clarity.

      ‘Happy to be your persistent person anytime 🙂

  3. Robertabudvietas

    Thanks Dorothy. Likewise I am glad we have connected. I have not always been as discriminatory as I should have been but I have many strategic alliances and also some just plain fun connections. My connections allow me to feel supported but also to grow. Have shared this post as I think it is truly worthwhile

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Roberta I think with any network whether on line or actual, social or professional there will always be the odd hiccough. It’s good to have strong internal antennae and the willingness to sever a connection if it doesn’t work properly. My worst professional experiences has actually been with someone I had interacted with for many years who turned out to be a closet serial fraudster! Sometimes you think you know someone – but you don’t really! Delighted to be connected with you too!

  4. Mary Loftus

    Dorothy, thank you for creating this opportunity to reflect on our networking strategy. I’m generally a reluctant networker, but Twitter has helped me to appreciate and reap the benefits of openness and reciprocity.

    It’s the serendipity of networking on Twitter that appeals to me. You just never know what you’re going to get. For that matter, you never know what you will find yourself giving to others – often inadvertently. Now that’s magic!

  5. Pingback: Do you have a “Go-To” Top10? | Dorothy Dalton

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