Stop everything and pay attention to what I’m about to say: you could be just six contacts away from a good professional development opportunity.
Do you doubt it? Then we need to talk about the “Small World Theory”, also called “6 Degrees of Separation Theory”. Check it out.
What is the Small World Theory?
In the 1920s, Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy was the first person to suggest that the world was connected. The hypothesis described in the book Everything is Different suggested that two people could be connected with only six friendships.
It was regarded as a myth until 1967, when American psychologist Stanley Milgram decided to test the premise. Milgram designed an experiment based on the exchange of letters between strangers, and the result obtained proved Karinthy’s theory.
He sent 300 packages to random people in the USA. A note asked them to get the package to a man in Boston, using someone they knew to do so. All the mailings sent that reached their final destination went through six intermediaries.
How the theory works
After the study conducted in 1967, much research involving the theory was put into practice. One of them recreated Milgram’s experiment, obtaining the same result.
In the digital age, it was Facebook’s turn to devise a project with its team of researchers to understand how interpersonal connections develop. To everyone’s surprise, the degrees of separation have decreased.
Social networks have made us more exposed to people, making us relate to individuals who previously would not have been part of our network. And this exchange of information has been a determining factor for networking today.
Does theory influence networking?
Browsing LinkedIn shows how the six degrees of separation work when applied in the age of algorithms. The platform establishes levels of connection between people, separating the closest from the most distant, but all always maintaining some level of interaction.
Factors like this demonstrate how those who wish to invest in their professional development can foster a networking network without much effort. This is because you do not need to be directly associated with all users, just a small portion.
That said, it is important that you do not forget that to create ties there are criteria that never change, with or without theory: work on your approaches, interact with your network and produce relevant content.
Expanding your network of contacts
The first step to establishing a circle of contacts that boosts your career, it is essential to define your goals. Know who you want to reach with your content and, from there, create materials that can serve these people.
Rules of “good neighbourliness” also apply in the digital world: be polite and polite when talking, listen to what other people have to say, show interest and interact. It is good manners to introduce yourself when adding a professional to your network.
Professional networks like LinkedIn offer communities where users can interact on specific topics, share ideas and, to top it off, exchange contact referrals. Just use the algorithm to your advantage.