It’s all too easy to look at successful people and feel that what they’ve achieved is somehow irreplicable, that what makes them special is some ingrained knowledge or skill set. But that’s not true. As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Success is all about working your networks – and this extends to cases far beyond classic networking to make new contacts. Caring for your network will expand business potential, increase innovation and diversity and set you on the path to achieving your ambitions.
In “Friend of a Friend”, author David Burkus describes how your network is much larger than you think it is, and how you can quickly grow if you learn to reach out to the right people.
The value of a close friendship is not to be underrated. We all want to have people around who we trust and with whom we can share our feelings. But when it comes to work, if you’re going to be successful, you have to dump those emotional tendencies and work according to a different professional paradigm.
Sociologically speaking, your close friends are those with whom you have strong social ties. But, if you cultivate ties with people you’re not so close to – that is, weak social ties – you’re going to be a better networker.
Typically, when we’re faced with challenges such as looking for a new job, we reach out to strong social ties or seek out job listings online. What’s all too readily forgotten are weak social ties, and that’s a big mistake.
The problem with strong social ties is that they are often connected to each other as well as to you, like an interconnected cluster. In contrast, weak social ties tend to be connected to other social clusters, which means they’ll spread news of your job search to entirely different groups of people. Interestingly enough, connecting with people you’re less close to also promotes innovation.
Remember those cliques in high school that all had their special spots in the cafeteria? It’s a universal experience: people have a natural tendency to gather in exclusive groups of familiar people. If you’ve ever tried to get to know new people at a house party, you’ll have seen the same thing in action.
But, in truth, we’d all be better off trying to mingle with people we don’t know at all. That’s because connecting with utterly unfamiliar groups nourishes innovation. There’s another benefit to connecting with unfamiliar groups. We saw earlier that it can help you in your job search, but there’s a good chance that it’ll be more generally beneficial to your career, too.
Studies have shown that, in addition to being more innovative, you’ll also be awarded higher salaries and receive more promotions.
In 2004, sociologist Ronald Burt conducted a study where he tasked 673 managers working at a major electronics company with improving the company’s supply-chain management.
He found that managers who discussed the problem with people from different social clusters to their own were able to come up with the best ideas. As it happened, they were the same managers who already had the best paid and highest positions within the company.
Clearly then, networking will take you far!
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