Being aware of these concepts might help you to appreciate what is going on when you network.
1) Dispersed knowledge. F.A. Hayek is the thinker most associated with the idea of the knowledge problem—that we all suffer from limited knowledge. He notes that knowledge is widely dispersed. This is why central planning cannot work. This means that everyone you meet has some knowledge that could have value or interest to you. Your goal is to find out what that knowledge is. Dispersed knowledge is spread in everyone’s hands, so do not waste too much time talking to someone who is unwilling or unable to share their knowledge.
2) The strength of weak ties. It is people you barely know who may be of the greatest value to you. More than 80 percent of those who say they got a job though personal connections say that person was an acquaintance, not a friend, when a friend is defined as someone you see at least once a month. Studies suggest that most people get their jobs through weak ties, such as a friend of a friend or a distant family member.
3) Reciprocity. Successful networkers are those who give as well as those who benefit. International studies on why fellow workers cooperate with each other show very different styles. For Americans, the principle is reciprocity, the belief that the other person would help them if asked. In China, cooperation depended on orders from an authority figure. The Spanish help those they like. Germans cooperate if it conforms to the rules. In America, reciprocity is the key ingredient. Avoid people who are takers but not givers.
4) Structural holes. Filling in structural holes is the term for when one connects people who should know each other but do not. You should connect people with common interests, e.g., in health care or Africa.
5) Articulate commonalities. What do you say when you meet a total stranger? You should try to identify things you have in common. It might be your college, state, sport, policy interest, etc. So when introducing yourself, give your full name, and something about you that might lead to a connection. “I am a student at x university.” “I intern at the Cato Institute.”
6) Connectors, mavens, and salesmen. Malcolm Gladwell identifies three different types of people. Connectors bring people together. Mavens collect knowledge and information. Salesmen are good at promotion. Ideally, you should have all three qualities, but that is difficult, so identify your strengths. Make sure you surround yourself with people with a variety of strengths.
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