Expand Your Network by Bridging Structural Holes
Think about the people you know professionally; and
most likely the majority are also laboratorians. That seems logical because you
interact with colleagues at work. Maybe you belong to a local professional
group or even a national membership organization. You might even know the
majority of medical laboratorians in your city. That makes sense.
But think for a minute about the many professionals you
know who may help in your career or who you can use as a resource from time to time.
Research conducted by Ronald Burt at the University
of Chicago School of Business finds that our personal and professional lives
are richer and more productive if we build bridges with others who are
different and with whom we would not normally interact. This is called bridging
Certain individuals and groups seem naturally connected to
certain others; often comparing similarities and exchanging thoughts, ideas and even
Burt says social capital, on the other hand, is created by brokering
connections by otherwise disconnected segments. All parties benefit from this symbiotic structure.
By the way, this is not the same as networking which is a
deliberate strategy of expanding your list of contacts so that you can call on them
periodically if needed.
You can deliberately bridge structural holes by
creating associations outside of the laboratory: in your organization, at
church, in a volunteer organization and even online. Sometimes
it takes someone with different experiences and frames of references to
bring a new perspective. They can identify strengths, weaknesses and even holes
in your logic that you cannot see. In return you can garner support and even borrow ideas of how to
solve a problem you are grappling with.
The great thing about bridging structural holes is
that it is mutually beneficial. Many processes or lines of thought which are traditionally
connected with scientists can be beneficial to those in business, social
science and other areas. The reverse is also true. I cannot count the many times I have been complimented on my ability to analyze complex material or my keen attention to detail. These traits come naturally to scientists, but not necessarily to my friends in business, some clinical disciplines or even journalism.
When you adopt (or adapt) someone’s ideas you don’t even
have to tell them, and you can avoid the sense of obligation of having to constantly
ask for favors.
Here's the take-away. Deliberately court relationships with others “not
like you” and observe how they think, the logic they use, they tools they have,
the resources they draw on. Learn from them as they learn from you.
Chances are you will find something useful that will
benefit you in your personal or professional life.