We all know that having tons of LinkedIn connections does not make you an effective networker. The quantity of connections does not serve as the primary driver of networking efficacy. The nature of those connections matters. Researchers have compared two types of networkers for years. First, there are those that engage intensely in a closed network. They connect with others who share similar knowledge, expertise, and experience. In short, they stick to their silo. They aim to deepen their expertise in a particular field. Second, there are the brokers. These people are good at bridging among pools of people with different expertise. They help connect people in different closed networks. Brokers are incredibly important.
Who is the more effective networker - the person who builds connections with others to deepen their expertise in a particular area or the broker who bridges multiple silos? Ronald S. Burt and Jennifer Merluzzi have discovered that "network oscillation" actually proves to be the most effective networking strategy. They studied 350 investment bankers at one particular financial services firm, and they tracked them over four years. Here's an excerpt from a University of Chicago story about their research:
The short answer: the most-successful people take advantage of both systems—sometimes they broker, and other times they dive into closed networks. In fact, without this movement back and forth, their networks give them no advantage at all... Analyzing salary and bonus packages as well as year-end performance surveys proved revealing for Burt and Merluzzi. Bankers who were able to move between brokering and working in closed networks during the year reaped the greatest rewards. These individuals formed ties across the organization, gaining access to new projects and opportunities. But once they found an opportunity, they quit brokering and engaged deeply in their new project. When that project ended, they once again tapped into their broad network of contacts at the firm to find the next interesting project. Swinging between working intensely on a project and networking more widely did have a cost: these bankers sometimes saw their reputations suffer while they were on the bench. But the hit was temporary. And the compensation data show that these oscillating bankers made the most money over time.