In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews.
The beauty of networks is that they are nonlinear. You have played six degrees of Kevin Bacon, so you know that the world is a deeply interconnected place. But we do not always think about the power of connections. The human brain has about 100 billion neurons, but they are all interconnected—one neuron can be linked to as many as 10,000 other neurons. That equates to more than 1,000 trillion synaptic relationships, a number that is almost too large to contemplate. Exponentially more relationships exist in the network than nodes. This is what makes a network powerful.
But when most of us think about networking, what we just mean is filling up our Rolodex, or maybe today, our contact database or LinkedIn connections list. When we view networking as just connecting one-on-one with others, we miss the whole point. A contact spreadsheet will not get you your next professional opportunity, but the relationships in your network might.
What this means is that you need to start cultivating connections among the other people in your network. Did you just meet someone who is considering applying for a social impact internship? Connect them to your friend at TechnoServe. Was the managing director of the company you are applying to work for a former Olympic hopeful volleyball player? Connect him to your client who played professional volleyball after college. Know two people who are obsessed with food truck culture in your city? Introduce them. Do this with no agenda except fostering more meaningful connections in the world.
Surprising things happen when the people around you are connected with one another, and only at this point does the network begin to benefit you.