One of the many activities you should become engaged in during your MBA journey is developing your social network. In strategy class, we discuss social capital as the network of relationships that individuals have throughout the organization as well as with customers and suppliers. Leveraging social capital gives you access to key contacts for the success of your future, your company, and in entrepreneurial endeavors.
Your horizontal network is comprised of the people you barely or somewhat know. By contrast, your vertical network is comprised of the people you know very well or have met in person. For example: I (Brett) don’t know Hannah, but I read her personal blog and contributions on Graziadio Voice. We’ve never met face to face, but we share some common interests, such as business school, sharing knowledge, and Pepperdine. To each other, we are weak ties, but each of us separately has many strong ties in each of our respective vertical networks. The real value to engaging with your horizontal network is the access you have to many other vertical networks.
Why would you want to expand your horizontal network? The Corporate Lattice, by Cathleen Benko and Molly Anderson discuss how building your lattice, “is simply a more adaptive construct chock full of options for how to view and enable career success, which makes it better suited to align with the changing needs and expectations of today’s workplace.” Simply put: the old model has given way to a more modern, adaptable one. Tapping into your horizontal network will give you access to “weak ties” that are more likely to help you realize new opportunities than through your “strong ties.”
Your Personal Objective to networking matters. You can easily talk to the people you already know, say on Facebook (strong ties), or you can venture out, build you network and meet some new contacts (weak ties). The best place to do this at Pepperdine is on Yammer. Yammer is Pepperdine’s internal social network that ties all its participants together on one platform, in one place, safely and securely. All students have the potential to connect with one another across this platform and gain value from contributions of its members. The richness of the experience depends completely on your participation and sharing.
Stay tuned for a future article on how the value of Yammer is an easy portal to expanding your horizontal network.
In-person horizontal networking often feels like the most insincere thing you can do, especially when you get friend requests on Facebook or LinkedIn, and you question whether or not you will even see this person again. The truth is, you may never, but with the whole span of their world shared now on their profiles, the commonalities you didn’t even know you had can come to the surface. For example: my current internship (Hannah) was driven by a LinkedIn connection through an entertainment industry networking group during my “former life.” Rob and I had met once in person and learned about each other through this networking group, similar to a Yammer forum or LinkedIn group. Trust was built through the reputation we each had with our shared vertical networks. Therefore, when I reached out regarding the consulting practice at his company, he actually offered me the internship position before I had a chance to really inquire. Now I see Rob all the time and he has worked his way into my vertical network. The activity we engaged in with our horizontal activities built up our personal brand equity without even knowing it.
The National network often feels irrelevant, especially if you expect to stay local forever, like I assumed I would (Hannah). But the truth is, nothing is guaranteed, and when I came back this weekend from the Sony Case Competition, I found myself thankful that I had established additional horizontal relationships with people all over the country. First of all, I have strong vertical connections in a variety of states, relationships in industries that don’t necessarily benefit me at this time, but I love them anyway. These new, spread out connections may know people in Los Angeles, people that are more valuable then my own vertical connections. Sometimes, we have blinders on to people who aren’t in our field, our city, or even at our career experience threshold. However, these connections, the tiny threads beneath the surface that spin together into a thick strand and eventually dramatic fabric… these connections are the ones worth fostering in whatever way we can.