9 Lives for Women Blog

4.74 Degrees of Separation | April 4th, 2012

A few social butterflies in my circles know everyone there is to know, but many more women have a nice circle of friends and acquaintances and that’s that.

The non-social butterfly camp of job seekers often tells me that they’ve run out of networking contacts.  They do the obvious—contact their inner circle of friends, family and current/former business colleagues.  They usually don’t reach far beyond that inner circle through, for example, Linkedin or their college alumni associations.

What I also hear quite often from the more reserved is that they don’t know a lot of influential people who can lead them to many new and powerful connections.  And to that I say that every connection brings you one step closer to a powerful connection.

For years, we’ve all experienced that it’s “a small world”.  In more sociological terms, it has been called “six degrees of separation”.   But now, the April, 2012 issue of Real Simple reports that the average number of people linking two strangers is now 4.74 (according to scientists from Facebook and the University of Milan).

If that’s you throwing up your hands and saying that you have no valuable networking connections, stop right there!  The fact is that you are 4.74 people away from anyone you want to know.  Any president of a company you’re targeting.  Any HR manager who is impossible to reach by phone.  Any interesting professional you read about in the news.   Anyone.  And everyone.

It just takes research, tenacity, a succinct “elevator speech” and a compelling Linkedin profile.

The best news is that technology has made it much easier for the non-social butterflies to reach out to strangers.  Most networking can be done through Linkedin or personal emails.  If you really want to push the envelope, the March 26th issue of Time reports on 11 new smart phone apps that introduce you to nearby strangers with common interests.  Now that’s cool.

The days of making awkward phone calls asking people you’ve never met to join you for coffee are over.  As long as you’re very specific about the help you need (not asking people if you can “pick their brain” about your job search), many busy people are happy to respond to an  email, and bring you closer to the connections you covet.

  • Know that it is statistically impossible to run out of networking contacts in your lifetime.
  • Realize that networking is a multi-step process that leads you–person by person–to the connections you want and need.
  • Conduct the majority of your networking via email or Linkedin:  people you don’t know prefer not to be interrupted or put on the spot by phone.
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