Indispensability comes from being a switchboard, parceling out as much information, contacts, and goodwill to as many people—in as many different worlds—as possible It’s a sort of career karma.
How much you give to the people you come into contact with determines how much you’ll receive in return. In other words, if you want to make friends and get things done, you have to put yourself out to do things for other people—things that require time, energy, and consideration. Successfully connecting with others is never about simply getting what you want. It’s about getting what you want and making sure that people who are important to you get what they want first. Often, that means fixing up people who would otherwise never have an opportunity to meet. The best sort of connecting occurs when you can bring together two people from entirely different worlds. The strength of your network derives as much from the diversity of your relationships as it does from their quality or quantity.
“People who have contacts in separate groups have a competitive advantage because we live in a system of bureaucracies, and bureaucracies create walls,” says Burt. “Individual managers with entrepreneurial networks move information faster, are highly mobile relative to bureaucracy, and create solutions better adapted to the needs of the organization.”
Performing social arbitrage when your financial and relational resources are thin is actually not too big a hurdle. The solution is knowledge, one of the most valuable currencies in social arbitrage. Knowledge is free—it can be found in books, in articles, on the Internet, pretty much everywhere, and it’s precious to everyone.
The ability to distribute knowledge in a network is a fairly easy skill to learn. So easy, in fact, you should get started today. Identify some of the leading thinkers and writers in your industry. Do these figures have any new books on the market? Look at what’s hot on the nonfiction New York Times bestseller list. Or for business bestsellers, check out the Wall Street Journal’s list in the Personal Journal section on Friday. Buy the book, read it, and take some notes summarizing the Big Idea, a few of its interesting studies or anecdotes, and why it’s relevant to the people you’re thinking about passing your knowledge on to.
You’ve just created your own Big Idea of the Month Cliffs Notes (or whatever snazzy title you choose). Now pick a few people, some whom you know well and some you don’t, and e-mail them your work. All you have to say is “Here are some cool ideas I think you’d like to be on top of.”
To paraphrase Dale Carnegie: You can be more successful in two months by becoming really interested in other people’s success than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in your own success.
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi, Tahl Raz