With an estimated eight billion humans living on this planet having connections to a person living in a country you’ve never visited or being able to meet your favorite celebrity seem nearly impossible. However, according to Frigyes Karinthy, a famous Hungarian author who introduced the concept of six-degrees of separation in 1929, the task is not impossible. Follow along to see how the concept could make an impact on your career.
Karinthy introduced this concept in a short story titled, Chains. The theory is every person on the planet could be connected using “nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.” A network can be made up of friends, family, work colleagues, fellow classmates, etc. The concept was made popular in 1994 by three students who were attending Albright College in Pennsylvania. The students made the concept into a game with actor Kevin Bacon being the epicenter of connectivity. The objective of the game was to connect Bacon to any Hollywood movie star within six people or less. To ease the visual of this concept we have provided the image above. Keep it in mind as you read the following example.
As a Theatre major at Tarleton State University, you aspire to meet the famous actor/director, Matthew McConaughey. Professor A, your film instructor, went to college with Professor B, who happens to be a professor at The University of Texas at Austin. Mr. McConaughey visits the UT campus frequently in support of the football team and is a mentor to students pursuing a career in film. In 2015, Professor B and Mr. McConaughey worked together during his time as a visiting professor. Broken down, it only took two people to get to one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. So, who could you get in contact with in less than six people?
A circle of connections can be used to promote a product/service, charity, or business. Kevin Bacon utilized his platform to create sixdegrees.org, a charity that uses his large network of wealthy celebrities to benefit organizations needing funds or awareness. Bacon strategically uses his 1.4 million Instagram following as a platform for his foundation to reach people all around the world. Athletes often apply the same strategy when they are seeking to gain new sponsorships. An athlete who is gaining recognition amongst fans and large TV networks for performances can use those appearances to build a strong sponsorship portfolio. The athlete has developed a sizable following and should present that to sponsors as an opportunity for brand exposure to a greater audience.
Let this concept be a valuable reminder that networking is important. A successful businessperson should possess strong networking skills. You hear it all the time, but it really is “all in who you know.” It only takes one person to lead you to a world of opportunities. So, practice at those big yearly conferences and grow your social circle. Happy networking!