Normally, when we talk about networking, we’re talking about growing the number of connections or contacts we have. We discuss clubs, best practices with regard to e-mails, how to follow up, etc. We very rarely talk about one of, I feel, the most important parts of networking: pruning it. When it comes to the people in your network quality is more important than quantity. Many super-networkers may think I’m crazy for saying this, but our brains can only maintain so many relationships at any given time anyway. It’s important that we have room in our lives to maintain the connections that are healthy to us. Many times, it is more difficult to reduce the size of your network than to grow it. 

It’s important to realize that networking is not about collecting contacts. People are not trading cards. I think it’s funny when people boast about how many people they have in their phone. Networking is about pooling differing experiences for mutual benefit. That benefit does not have to be monetary or career related. Two friends that encourage each other is a successful relationship. As trees and plants grow, it is sometimes necessary to remove the leaves and branches that or inhibiting growth. Once removed new, stronger leaves and branches grow in their place, leading to a healthier specimen. The same concept applies to people.

As your network grows, you’re sure to come across people who become toxic to you. You might recognize these people. They are the ones who are always negative, the ones who hate to see you do anything successful, and those who do anything they can to hold you back. They are not good for you and need to be removed your your immediate network. You don’t have to cut them out of your life completely, but they shouldn’t be allowed to negatively affect you. Breaking a bond with a person with whom we have a relationship can be difficult, but we sometimes have to rid ourselves of a few bad leaves so we can have room to grow.