Weaving Our Networks of Trust

Original Spanish version published in El Economista America on August 22, 2014

Before, when jobs were secure, we did not have to worry about creating networks of contact. Jobs were forever and everybody knew each other. No extra effort was needed to get to know people or to make our personal brand known. That has changed. Today, a personal network is an essential tool to sell our professional services.

Moreover, most jobs are obtained through networks of contacts. When a position is available, companies first informally search within the company, among friends, and among clients. Ninety percent of job possibilities are in what we call the “hidden opportunity market”.

Herminia Ibarra, in her book Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career, states that the three components for a successful executive career are: 1) skills, knowledge, achievements, results; 2) image and reputation; 3) contacts and relationships.

When people hear about building a network of contacts, some think that it is manipulative and self-serving, as if once we got what we needed from a person, we would cut ties with him or her. This would be self-seeking and distasteful.

That is why at LHH DMB we like to talk about networks of trust. Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Little Black Book of Connections, says, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.”

So, what is a network of trust? It is what arises through conscious and voluntary acts of establishing and maintaining genuine and long-term contacts with people who know and value us, and whom we value as well.

Weaving a network of trust is establishing (reestablishing) a long-term relationship with people who appreciate us, whom we appreciate, whom we know, and with whom we maintain (or have maintained) a relationship of trust, appreciation, and mutual respect.

The larger our network of trust, the better our employability, because the people in our network are the best salespersons for our services, the best trustees of our reputation. Weaving networks of trust, then, involves having a clear idea of whom we know and what they know about us.

To develop our network of trust, we must first make an organized list of our contacts. Most people have a personal network of approximately three hundred to five hundred people, but their network is not embodied in a well-ordered list and they are not fully aware that they have so many contacts.

Let’s start by listing all the people we know and who know us, even though we may not have seen them for a long time. That is, all those people who have an image of us, who manage our reputation; those who may be asked about us tomorrow and would say, “He/she is a first-class person” or “No, stay away from him/her”. It is better if they see us in a positive light, whatever position they may hold.

How do we weave a network of trust? Obviously, we have to maintain our relationships by continuously updating our contacts. It is good to keep them informed about what we are doing with our lives, with our careers, what has happened to us lately, if we were promoted, or if we learned something new. It is equally as important to be genuinely interested in our contacts –their lives, their interests, their achievements.

When building our contact network, we must be careful about making a mistake that is especially at odds with out aim: thinking that there are small or unimportant contacts. Some people think their contacts should only be influential people, such as general managers or relatives in high positions. They tend to neglect their ties and relationships with people of varying status.

We should not forget that weaving networks of trust means reestablishing and rewriting relationships under new terms and keeping them current. It is also about reestablishing our identity, image, personal brand, and reputation with them. It is about renewing the relationship, even with those who we have not seen for a long time! The best secret to weaving successful networks of trust is to do so continuously (not only when we need them for something), honestly, and enthusiastically, and, above all, with a genuine interest in people.

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