How to make yourself relevant and in-demand?

Rajesh at 42, never thought he would be jobless when he heard the announcement of the merger of his telecom company with another one. But soon Rajesh was jobless. The current economic crisis in India along with the global trends could threaten millions of jobs. And yours could be one. 

What can you do to make yourself relevant, agile and in demand?

While we could blame the government, global leaders, our company policies, we also need to face the reality. 

The reality is that the current economic situation might last for a while and there would be job cuts. Even if not about job cuts, we live in a competitive work place and as you move up in the hierarchy there are less positions and roles. So how do you make yourself relevant and in demand?

Actually there are only two areas that you can focus on, building your human capital and your social capital.  Before you ask me what these are, let me explain human capital and social capital. 

Human Capital 

Human capital is an intangible asset or quality not listed on a company’s balance sheet. It can be classified as the economic value of a worker’s experience and skills. This includes assets like education, training, intelligence, skills, health, and other things employers value such as loyalty and punctuality. 

Think about yourself; your education, skills, intelligence, mindsets etc. This is your human capital. Are you up to date when it comes to your functional skills?  What have you done recently to improve or increase your human capital? 

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self”. Said Aldous Huxley, the famous English writer and philosopher . So when if you are more contemporary, relevant with  current skills and knowledge, you have better chances. 

Social Capital

Social capital is the power of your network and knowledge and capital available in the network. So, this is not about how much or what you know, this is about who all you know and who all know you. 

Let’s look at how to build our network and our trusted connections. Some of you might ask, “why should I build my network? I like to work alone, and I do my work and I have no time for socializing or networking”. Remember we live in a connected and networked world. 

The trusted networks we have, creates our social capital, something that may be more important that human capital. There is a growing recognition of what makes employees successful at work. It is their personal expertise (Human Capital) combined with their networks of professionals inside and outside the organisation (Social Capital).

So social capital is the power of your network. We all know that work most of the time does not get done through formal structures but through informal networks. 

Do you have enough social capital that could help you to get things done? Do you have trusted relationships and networks that helps you drive your goals? 

A large part of the success of Silicon Valley in the United States is attributed to formal and informal co-operation between the start-up companies in the area. Have you heard the term “PayPal Mafia”? Companies like LinkedIn, YouTube, Yelp, Yammer, Flickr, Mozilla, Tesla and even Facebook are connected to a bunch of people who worked in PayPal. Their trusted connections, their social capital, helped them to make these companies hugely successful in a short period of time. 

Now look at your network. What kind of network do you have? Whom all are you connected to? Is there trust and reciprocity in these relationships? With whom all are your connections connected? Though this could be tough to map but you have a sense about their connections too.  Organizations like actually map these complex networks in small and large organisations and create insights. 

 Let me explain networks bit more so that you can do something practically and improve your social capital. 

Bonding and Bridging 

When you look at your connections and network, you can see two kinds of connections, bonding and bridging connections. Bonding is a connection and relationship we have with people who are similar to us, similar profession, Interest etc.

Bridging is the relationship we have with people who are from different professional backgrounds. Many a time, I got help and insights from the bridging relationships that I have with my friends who are journalists, advertising professionals and artists. 

I also realised the power of my weak ties, the relationships that are dormant for years. Usually our tendency is to reach out to people who we are closely connected to, when we need help. But they do not add much value because they are a part of the same network. But our weak ties, people with whom we have not connected for years, might add more value because their network now is different and they would know different kinds of people who are not in my network. 

Remember these weak ties, relationships,  which were once strong, so we could always go back and connect again and make those relationships stronger.

Build your Human and Social Capital

Continuously building your human and social capital is the only way to make yourself relevant, agile and attractive. Remember having large number of followers in social media might not indicate your social capital. Similarly getting awards and recognition from organizations that are not trusted do not build your social capital.

It is about having trusted relationships and networks. So do not build these trusted relationships when you need them but you build these relationships when you do not need them so that there are there when you need. When we, did our recent Advanced women leadership program, we focused both on Human Capital and Social Capital. Professor John Burrows from University of Chicago took the session on Social Capital in that workshop.

People do business with people they know, like and trust.

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