“I like to see myself as a bridge builder, that is me building bridges between people, between races, between cultures, between politics, trying to find common ground.” —T. D. Jakes
As we transcend through networks by changing schools, accepting new jobs, and relocating to new areas, we often feel like we are leaving old networks behind. However, while we might physically leave the network, these connections never truly go away. When you join a new network, you are serving as a Network Bridge.
A Network Bridge: Basics
A Network Bridge is a relationship that links two different networks together. For instance, if you are embedded in a network of fellow engineers and you befriend Emily, an account manager with an extensive network of sales professionals, your relationship would be considered a Network Bridge. Through Emily’s network, you have expanded your reach to even more connections that have opportunities for you. Her connections are called Weak Ties because you don’t directly know these connections or only know them as acquaintances. The amount of value both of you can gain from meeting each other’s Weak Ties can pay tremendous dividends for your personal growth and opportunities.
To tell if you’re a Network Bridge, answer the following questions:
• Did you introduce a person from one network to a person from a different network?
• Does your field of work differ from the field of work of this person?
If the introductions are from diverse backgrounds, odds are that you are a Network Bridge.
The Network Bridge makes you the linchpin between two disconnected groups. Without your Network Bridge, these two groups would never connect. Each group has different wants and needs that can potentially be satisfied by the skills in each group. You act as a Connection Broker by helping others develop a Network Bridge. More importantly, because both groups differ, the value you can provide as a Connection Broker dramatically increases. Later in the course, we will teach you how to conduct a proper introduction.
Network Bridge Exposure
Use the following steps to test the diversity of your network.
• How were you introduced to people in your network? If you have updated your Network Tracker, review the column titled, “How did I meet them?” According to Brian Uzzi, professor of leadership and organizational change at the Kellogg School of Management, “If you’ve introduced yourself to your key contacts more than 65% of the time, then you’re probably building your network using the self-similarity principle and your network may be too inbred.”
• What are their current roles? If greater than 70% of people you have connected within the last 60 days are in the same career field (HR, Sales, Engineering, etc.) or company, odds are that your connections aren’t Network Bridges.
You may also use a special app such as the Social Lab app to check network density. The social lab app connects to your LinkedIn profile to provide a visual map of your connections. Based on the visualization, you can see if your network is highly concentrated or dispersed. People located at the periphery of your network could be future Network Bridges.
For now, review your Network Tracker and see how many people could benefit from being introduced to someone else in your network. Mark your tracker for potential prospects, but wait until we complete the lesson on Double Opt-In introductions before reaching out to anyone.
You might have spotted a person you haven’t spoken to in ages, but you’re too afraid to reach out. Tomorrow, I’ll teach you how to reactivate this dormant connection.
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