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 don’t 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 over 1,000 trillion synaptic relationships, a number that is almost too large to contemplate. There are exponentially more relationships in the network than there are 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, then 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 volley ball after college. Know two people who are obsessed with food truck culture in your city? Introduce them. Do this with no agenda save to foster more meaningful connections in the world.
Surprising things happen when the people around you are connected with each other, and it is only at this point that the network begins to benefit you.