Are you making one of the most common networking mistakes?
On a call the other day, a long-time client shared with me his criteria for accepting requests to connect on LinkedIn. Like most people I know, when he receives a request, he checks the person's profile to see if they are in his industry and/or occupation. If they are, then he accepts the request. If they are not--they come from some other type of work--he does not.
I must gently, but firmly challenge this approach to building your network. It is exactly the WRONG way to go about connecting.
When you connect only with people who are in your field, your network is automatically too closed and insular. You will be living in an echo chamber, talking only to people who share fundamental assumptions and beliefs about how things work. You will also have access to only certain kinds of information and knowledge.
It's like living in a village, isolated from the rest of the world. You start to believe that everyone else thinks like you do. You forget (or don't realize) that people in other places are having different experiences, getting different information, accessing different resources. Anyone who has traveled to another country knows what I'm talking about.
The problem with these kinds of closed networks is that they are less resilient, more brittle. In a world where you are likely to change careers (not jobs) several times in your life, the last thing you need is a network that keeps you tied to a particular industry or occupation. One of the most difficult things for career changers is getting into industries where they have no connections.
And even if you do end up staying in the same industry for most of your working life, diversified networks will make you more effective. You will have access to ideas and people that can help you be more innovative and bring new energy to your work.
It's fine to seek out people with whom you share things in common, but try seeking out people who share your work values or who are growth-oriented in their careers, regardless of occupation or industry.
Look for people who are generous with their information and knowledge, who like to connect and share what they know.
Connect to people who energize you, who challenge your thinking and bring you new ways of looking at the world.
And for sure, network on your own behalf, not just for your company or organization.
Part of building your career resilience is developing resilient circles of connection. Focus not just on the breadth of your networks, but also on creating diversified circles that connect you to all kinds of people across all industries and occupations.
So here's your homework for the day: Go into LinkedIn and look at who you're currently connected to. Is everyone you know somehow part of your industry and/or occupation? If they are, then it's time to do some work on diversifying.