by Kristi Faulkner
Studies have shown that highly networked people have greater career and salary growth, and more job satisfaction than those with leaner networks. But for many of us too-busy multi-tasking career women, networking can seem like an extracurricular task we know we’re supposed to do—and fully intend to—if we ever find the time.
Just how valuable can a network be? I went straight to the top and spoke with Linda Descano, the immediate past-president of New York Women in Communications, an EVP at Havas PR, and a highly regarded super-connector.
Anyone who knows Linda Descano (and chances are, many of you do) will attest to her unique ability to connect with people – those she knows well, and those she’s just met. The network she’s built is nothing short of phenomenal. And it’s made a phenomenal difference in her life, too.
Here’s how Linda says making strong connections can add meaning to your life:
1. Meeting new people is the best source of fresh perspective and new ideas.
Cultivating expertise is not just about what you know or how you work, it’s about who you know and the ideas they bring forward, stimulate, or inspire. Stepping outside of your day-to-day existence and interacting with new people opens up your purview. Making broader connections help you connect the dots and generate fresh solutions to your everyday problems.
2.You’re only as strong as your relationships. (So strengthen them.)
Authentic relationships are built on mutual respect and support. Strong connections cultivate exponential opportunity for everyone. Nurture your relationships by staying in contact, socializing ideas, sharing insights and offering advice. You never know where these relationships will take you: to new job opportunities, speaking engagements, business opportunities, and beyond.
3. You’re never alone when other people are vested in your success.
Whether you’re trying to get to the next level in your career, or find a new job after an unsettling layoff, your network is likely to put their social capital to work for you. And of course, you would for them, too. But support doesn’t always have to be of the critical sort. Linda recounts the amazing people who’ve shared great ideas for haircuts, undiscovered gems of restaurants, doctor recommendations, and of course, must-read books – all things that contribute to a successful life and lifestyle.
4. A strong network helps you move smoothly through life and can make everything less daunting.
The people in your network naturally want the best for you. Rally those forces when needed, and enjoy the flow of advice and recommendations, introductions and connections. Linda describes how a contact from a board she served on heard she was moving to a new city and introduced her to someone who happened to be married to an author of books about her new hometown. She not only made two new friends but added a valuable resident expert to her contacts.
5. Human connection recharges the soul.
A famous study from MIT found a direct link between social connections and happiness. According to Linda, “The support of a strong network helps you stand straighter, cushions you when you fall, and can keep you from getting in your own way.” Though she’s a self-professed introvert, Linda attributes the act of adopting “a networking state of mind” to her leadership success. The mindset also helps anyone overcome the intimidation of large crowds.
6. There’s joy and personal fulfillment in giving back to your connections.
Linda never hesitates to give her wisdom, her experience, and her “lesson learned” perspective in reciprocation to those in her network. “I can’t coach everyone, but I will open up my Rolodex, make my connections available to others, and make introductions to help make someone’s path easier,” says Linda. “For me, it’s about using my time and talents to help others to figure out if I’m not the best person to help, who would be?” For Linda, it’s a pleasure to give back to people who share her passion and a sense of purpose.
What’s the best way to be authentic when you’re networking? According to Linda, it’s as natural as saying hello, asking people about themselves, and expressing true interest. Just see where the conversation goes, she says. “Not every conversation is going to lead somewhere, but if it feels right, express that you would welcome the opportunity to continue the conversation.”