As sociologist Mark Granovetter discovered, it is the people with whom we are the least connected who offer us the most opportunities. In business, this translates directly into innovation. At the same time, as Jim Rohn theorised, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with”. These people are most definitely your family and closest friends, and belong to your so-called inner circle.
How about the people in between? Who should they be? Let’s explore a few of them.
Nowadays, there exist numerous kinds of mentors, and even more reasons to have a mentor, but networking-wise the value of a mentor is mainly twofold. First, they have a whole different network of contacts and connections that you don’t. And secondly, they’ve been there and done that. You can learn from your mentor’s mistakes and avoid making them yourself, and thus save your reputation in your network – and, further down the line, theirs too.
The fact you have a mentor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be one yourself! Just make sure this person is a few steps after you on their path, so they can benefit from your experience. Even if not as broad and diversified as yours, your mentee has a network too, which gives you access to new opportunities (see the strengths of weak ties). And as the good connector you are, you will help your mentee expand their network, which will in turn feed your networking karma. Moreover, introducing your mentee to your contacts will help you increase the density of your own network, which should be one of the highest goals of every respectable connector.
Your peer group
By your peers, we mean people in your middle circle you share strong and frequent commonalities with. These could be friends you practise a hobby with, but also fellow entrepreneurs working on your same projects. The good thing about these relationships is that you share interests and goals, which means that you are moving in the same direction. The progress of one member of this group will thus benefit the other members as well. Building and nurturing such a social structure is an extremely effective strategy in life as well as in networking: a member’s new contact will most probably be shared with rest of the group, and everyone’s network will increase in size and density.
Any other key-figure you can think of? Let us know!