According to Robin Dunbar who is an anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist, 150 is the number of individuals with whom any person can maintain stable relationships in a lifetime. As you can imagine, this isn’t a lot to go when it comes to professional networking but it certainly depends on if your friends also happen to be your colleagues. Network theorists would tell you that all you need to do, is find a ‘hub’, i.e. a person that knows many people and that has the potential to introduce you to their contacts. There is always at least one hub in every professional scene. The problem with hubs is that sometimes they are difficult to approach – they are busy people, after all. However, good hubs are excellent communicators, so they will give you a chance to pitch them yourself.
An efficient strategy would be to start from any people you are already in contact and inquire up, get to know as many connections as possible. In doing so, you’re not discarding people from your network, but it can help you build more connections. The more connected you are with people, the more central you become in a network – and before you know it, you may become a hub! Remember that one should economise in how much time and energy is spent in building rapport and connections – Dunbar’s number. Try to categorise your contacts by function (who is doing what), ability and access (what they can help you with) but also by friendship and trust. This should be mutual so think how you can also help your network contacts. Strong networks are characterised by mutual agency and equal flow of information and services. Be aware of internal politics – your network contacts are still people and there will be conflict. And, certainly, try to be as clear as possible about your intentions, this will also help other people implement you in their networks, and will inform the ‘usefulness’ that you seek in a network (for example, if you are building a network of hard rock musicians and you are interested in Japanese folk music, it may be proved difficult to find usefulness in your contacts).