By Gayle Hallgren-Rezac and Darcy Rezac
Do you know the Verizon ads with that mass of people standing behind a single customer? It’s similar to the huge network that stands behind each of us, and everyone we meet. It symbolizes opportunity, but we often ask ourselves it is really worth going up and talking to that person we don’t know? Should I really make that call, it’s been so long since we talked? What could really happen if I talked to that other soccer parent at the field on Sunday?
When looking for a job it can often seem pretty lonely, and after being at it for some time you may feel that you have tapped out all your opportunities. But, there is science that proves that we are more connected than we think. It shows that in less than six connections we can be connected to anyone in the world. Does that open up opportunities? You bet!
Here’s how we explain the science in Work the Pond!:
Using mathematical graph theory, Cornell mathematicians Duncan Watts and Steve Strogatz began searching for an answer to the small-worlds phenomenon and here is what they found. If you look at social networks, for example, it is safe to assume that everyone has a network of contacts. For simplicity, assume that everyone has a network of fifty contacts—friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Assume that each of these contacts has their own network of fifty people, and so on. Now imagine that all of these people are connected to each other, like a huge fishnet cast around the world, until all six billion people are connected. It would take sixty million connections or handshakes to make contact with someone halfway around the world. OK, so that’s not six degrees.
Now, for every ten thousand people in that six billion in the world, introduce just two additional random connections—or shortcuts—between any two people.
This is where the power of a small world gets spooky and the magic begins
With this addition of only two random shortcuts per ten thousand people, it now takes only eight handshakes to meet someone halfway around the world. Not eight million—eight, period. Add a third random shortcut, and the handshakes drop to five!
So imagine the opportunities that might open up for you if you step out of your comfort zone, and engage a new person in a conversation. For example we meet someone in a line up at Tim Hortons, at a networking event or on the sidelines while watching your kid play soccer, and they introduce you to their direct connection, their wife. She has a random link to someone in Singapore, who then introduces you to his brother, who has the perfect job for you back at their Canada subsidiary. So when you think, naw…why bother talking to that person, remember that Verizon image and the science of six degrees.
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