It’s that time again, when we assess our accomplishments, review the to-do list from last year, and chart our paths for the next 12 months. As we do that, we need to remember to keep the resolutions reasonable and to craft a plan for achieving them.
And our networks must figure prominently in those plans. To put it bluntly, our networks offer the single best resource for meeting both our professional and our personal goals for 2008. For example:
1.) Have you resolved — like millions of others — to lose weight and get in shape in the coming year? Success or failure may be determined by your social network. A recent research study demonstrates that the probability of becoming obese rises by 60 percent if one of your network members is obese. The good news? Your friends and family can also promote your health and fitness goals. If your goal is to get in shape, look to your network for a gym partner or walking buddy. If you’ve decided to lose weight, focus on network members who will support your efforts. And evaluate carefully the messages that your friends and family may be sending you, thinking of how they may affect your health objectives.
2.) Resolved to find a new job this year? Networks affect fundamentally the kind of position you will locate. The key, though, is to recognize what kinds of contacts prove most effective. For example, many people think that close friends and relatives provide the best information and referrals — but it’s actually more likely that friends-of-friends and acquaintances, our “weaker ties,” will offer the most useful job search resources.
3.) How do you build those contacts? One great venue is volunteer organizations. Those associations provide an opportunity to build your network and your community simultaneously. But you need to choose the type of organization carefully -- some organizations are much better than others for building professional contacts than others.
4.) Are you among the thousands of people who want to find more satisfaction in their current job? Look to your network. Here, too, you need to focus on the kinds of contacts that are most likely to boost your morale.
5.) Do you need to generate more referrals and find more clients in 2008? Look to your network and to the networks of your current clients and customers. These networks provide an available, low-cost marketing mechanism. Remember that networks not only connect us to our friends, relatives, coworkers, and clients, but also link us to their circles of connections.
6.) Want to find greater happiness in the coming year? Your network can, as research shows, make you happier and healthier. It can even extend your life (if it has the right characteristics). But if you neglect your network, the consequences can be devastating: a leading health researcher compares the risks of social isolation to those of smoking and other key risk factors.
7.) Have you resolved to become a more effective parent in 2008? Your network can improve the academic performance and the behavior of your children. Connections to the parents of your kids’ friends — something called social closure — pays off with big benefits for your children.