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How Big is Your Social Capital? – 5 Practical Ways to Build Yours

Practical Ways to Improve and Maintain Your Social Connections

Relationships and connections exist at different levels for diverse purposes. It may be for personal, social, academic, career, or political reasons. But one thing has proven to be valid: “that the quality of people around us can effortlessly set us up for success, and they can equally limit our growth.” 

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While it sounds so simple to say “Your network is equal to your net worth,” it is tough to build that network that will translate into your net worth. Connection, when consciously built and developed, can outlive us and help to solve problems for us even when we are not physically there. 

Social Capital
How Big is Your Social Capital?

In this article, we examined the idea of social capital. Not just as a concept in business but as a vital ingredient for individual personal development and growth.  The question is no longer what is social capital or whether you have it but “how big it is.” What can your social capital do for you? Can you leverage it and solve problems? 

But before we share how you can develop and maintain your social capital as an individual, let’s review what social capital means and how it can help you function and thrive in any setting. 

What is social capital?

“Social capital” refers to the benefits, qualities, help, or resources we gain due to the connections we make, consciously or unconsciously. The idea of social capital lies in our ability to leverage our social networks and connections (people) to improve careers, solve problems, improve relationships, maintain shared objectives, and take collective action. 

To easily grasp the idea of social capital, think of that friend that recommended you for a job. Or that friend that always helps your dad to sort things out in the office, when he is not around. Think of your social capital as your savings in the bank. That you can always fall back on to solve problems. 

Your social capital is those individuals you can easily reach out to and get solutions to problems, even if they don’t solve it, they will have an idea of how to solve it. Your connection can help you build visibility, connect you with other people, and open up doors for new opportunities. 

Importance of a Robust Social Capital

Your social capital, or stronger connections, can be your gateway to arrays of opportunities. Not just for you as an individual, but in any organization you find yourself. 

  • Social Capital is important for an individual career goal advancement. Proper connection leads you to people that will mention your name in a room of opportunities. They know your worth and can always recommend you. 
  • A robust social capital allows individuals to achieve more through greater collaboration and teamwork. 
  • When you have properly built and developed your social capital, you can always leverage it to save time and reduce stress. 
  • It promotes a greater sense of responsibility among your network. People feel valuable when called upon to deliver certain services.  They feel important to help you get things done. Likewise, you, when you’re helping them. 
  • An effective social capital helps to prevent information silos, especially in an organization. An information silo means not sharing information and knowledge with other employees or people that should have access to such information.
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5 Practical Ways to Build Your Social Capital

The good news is that Social capital can be built. You just need to invest in the right places and the right people. Here are 5 practical ways to get started today: 

  • 1. Network Consciously and Proactively.

This is very important, especially when you’re networking for career advancement. Conscious networking means that you should identify what you need from a relationship or connection from the onset. What attracted you to an individual and what are you likely to gain from the person? This will help you to filter noise, and connect you to individuals that can add value to your life. 

Being proactive in networking helps you be ahead of the game. You don’t have to wait until you lose your job before you start building connections. Networking proactively provides you with a network to tap into when the need arises. Look into your goals, identify what you want, and where you see yourself in the coming years, and then start now to build those connections. 

  • 2. Make out Time for Networking, at least once a Week

This is also in line with consciously building your network. By making out time for networking, you don’t just say it. You have to add it to your “to-do list” or your calendar. Many people will complain that they don’t have time to network. The truth is that we always make out time for things we found important. And if you think that your social capital is important to your career and social life, then you must make out time for it.  Schedule at least one networking meeting per week. Make it your intention to have lunch or dinner with colleagues and key individuals you have identified as important to your development. 

  • 3. Be prepared to network at any time.

Always remember that the opportunity to meet valuable individuals can present itself anytime. So, you must be ready to put yourself out there and connect with these people. You can identify these individuals who have power and influence to help you in events where you never planned to network. Exchange business cards and nurture the relationship. Use your relationships to gain visibility and advance your career.

  • 4. Invest in Previous Relationships (Never underestimate the power of former colleagues and alums).
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People always wonder where they can start making connections. The best place is to start where you’re. If you’re still an undergraduate, make sure to build quality relationships and connections that are caught across departments or even faculties. This is one sure way to have a network of people from different works of life. Keep in touch with them, chances are that you will need their help one day in the future.

In addition, while still working in an organization, cultivate good relationships with everyone. Help them to solve problems. And when you leave the organization, always keep in touch. Our previous relationships may have access to opportunities that new connections can not easily give us. Because these people already know you and the values you can offer. 

  • 5. Leverage Your Social Media Network

Social media have made networking and building quality connections easier. Be it Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or any other platform you choose to build on. You have access to almost all the quality individuals in your industry and you can easily engage and connect with them. But in doing this, don’t allow the noise in your news feed to distract you. Always filter and connect with those that can impact your life. 

  • 6. Diversify Your Network.

Moving out of your comfort zone sounds cliché, but you need to, especially if you want to build an effective and quality network. Surround yourself with people who are more intelligent than you, people who have what it takes to help your career, your health, or your social life. Those that will push you to always keep learning and to stay curious. These people are not readily available in your circle, so, you need to go out and mix with people. Engage folks of diverse opinions and practices. 

How Do You Maintain Your Social Capital?

Since we all have agreed that connecting and building a quality relationship is crucial to success in our career as well as overall well-being, we also need to learn how to maintain this relationship. Here are strategies you can adopt to maintain and solidify your social capital; 

  • 1. Give the same energy you expect from people.  

Don’t always be the one gaining from a relationship, always give as much as you expect. If their energy is high, increase yours to match. Even if not 100%, make sure people in your connection are gaining from you. This will set you up as a valuable fellow to have around. To effectively do this, you need to constantly improve and build values around yourself.

  • 2. Be Present During Conversations 

This involves being genuinely interested in the people you meet, especially during physical meetings. Avoid distractions while talking with your connections: constantly glancing at your phone, looking around the room, breaking eye contact, etc. These actions can suggest that you’re not interested, or that you don’t prioritize them. If you do have to put your attention elsewhere, apologize and explain what you’re doing, then re-establish your focus.

  • 3. Allow conversations to go informal 
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While it is good to be formal and professional, it pays extra when a relationship or friendship goes informal. Try as much as possible to go beyond the professional setting. Ask thoughtful and insightful questions. Know something about their family, hobbies, or other things that will interest them. In this way, your connection will see you not just as a business partner or a colleague, but as a friend. And as a friend, you have a special place in their heart. 

  • 4. Look for Common Ground

If you want to enhance your chances of connecting with others, you need to look for areas of mutual perception when you communicate. Though it’s impossible to agree on everything, you can always find at least a few issues where you have similar opinions, which are ripe for an important conversation. If you don’t agree on something, be respectful and discreetly move on to another topic where there is less recourse for disagreement.

Conclusion

In summary, we are frequently told about the significance of networking and building quality relationships. Still, we are not taught how to network strategically and practically to get the needed results. Knowing how to build and maintain relationships is very vital. Today, ask yourself these questions, who are my friends, what can I benefit from them, and how do they impact my life? 

The journey of building a relationship is a lifetime process, therefore,  you must give it time. I hope you find the tips here very insightful. Go out today and build the connection that will set you up for greatness. 

This great piece was curated by Emmanuel Uchenna Enemuo, a Creat Naija creative writer and community member. You can also become a creative member of Creat Naija by joining here, subscribing to the newsletter, and from there you can connect to be part of the creative community.

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