Networking: How to Increase Your Social Capital
July 19, 2017
In a study by Harvard political scientists, social capital theory is said to hold the power to create a culture of “reciprocity, compromise, and… equality.”
Building your social capital extends the value and power behind your network of social contacts. All of which can help you further hone your reputation and get ahead in your career.
But what exactly does it look like to build social capital? From practicing the law of reciprocity to staying in touch with friends and family, here’s what the most well-connected professionals have already mastered:
They’re Known As "Connectors"
Do others come to you when they’re looking for a new job, moving to a new city, or just looking for a good restaurant? If this becomes a pattern, take this as a sign that you’re a natural connector. The best connectors are comfortable maintaining relationships with seemingly unrelated circles--from their old college buddies to work colleagues to a neighborhood running group.
Connectors have wide networks that also run deep. And because of these relationships, they’re able to connect their friends, family, and colleagues to resources they need. If you’re looking to widen and deepen your network, consider joining a professional club or organization like Harvard Business School Club, Ivy Connect, or Black Female Founders to name a few.
When you give your time to organizations who need it, you’re not just building social capital but good will.
Volunteering for a cause you are passionate about feels good and gives you the opportunity to connect with like-minded people who prioritize the wellbeing of their community and their world.
If you’re not the type to roll up your sleeves at DC Central Kitchen or Habitat for Humanity, plenty of organizations need knowledge workers to donate their writing, communications, and law services pro-bono.
They Seek Out Mentors & Mentees
Support is a beautiful thing. And at some point in your professional career you will either be giving or receiving it.
Both a mentor or mentee have the ability to enrich the other. Whether you’re in the position to help or you need guidance, you can earn social capital by providing value as a mentor or mentee. If you’ve reached a dead end in your career, a mentor can help take you to the next level. You can also consider it a mark of your own achievement and mature social capital when you give back in the form of mentorship.
They Stay in Touch With Those Who Matter
Having lots of contacts is great. But if you have no idea who these people are or how you met them, you’ll have no idea how to leverage your network.
When you add someone to your phone, make a note of where you met them. LinkedIn also has a great feature that lets you enter notes on how or why you made this connection. If you want to go rogue, create a spreadsheet with their contact info and the details of when and how you met them. If it was at a conference and you discussed their newly-launched business, follow-up on how their business is going. Not only does this show you took the time to listen and have an attention-to-detail, but that you also care about their interests.
Use holidays to reach out to those contacts you don’t hear from on a regular basis.
They Practice The Law of Reciprocity
Practicing the law of reciprocity is easy. When someone does something nice for you, you do something nice or even more generous in return. Intentions are important when it comes to practicing reciprocity. Helping others with the sole intention of serving your own interests will have an opposite effect on your social capital.
A version of this post previously appeared at Capitol Standard.
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