You hit snooze 5 times.
Because you hate going to work.
You’re stuck in a rut.
You’ve been working in the same job for five years, doing the same thing, at the same pay level.
For many people the unfortunate reality is they are stuck in life; stuck in the same place day after day with no vision of a brighter future.
You may have spent years in the same old job, in the same old department, for the same amount money. You see friends getting promoted, working on stuff they’re passionate about, and making more money.
Well here’s the thing, you can get ahead too. You don’t have to be stuck doing something you don’t like!
Today I’m going to share the number one thing you’re likely NOT doing and five actionable ways you can take charge of your career so you can take it to the next level and find the opportunity that’s right (and lucrative) for you.
This is a guest post by Katrina Razavi, founder of CommunicationforNerds.com. Sign up for a free three-video mini course called: How to Have Charismatic Conversations. It covers six secrets to social confidence, the #1 strategy to improve your life and how to have natural conversations even if you’re super awkward.
The Big Mistake: Your Social Comfort Zone
If you’re like most people, you’re likely interacting with the same inner-circle of friends and colleagues day in and day out.
Well believe it or not, that’s a problem.
See, you and your closest friends tend to watch the same shows, read the same books and are exposed to redundant information. The people closest to you tend to know the same people and information as you do.
Finding your next big break means getting your hands on new and unique information.
So how do you get the right information, the kind that gives you a competitive advantage?
You have to step outside something I call your “social comfort zone.”
Your social comfort zone consists of the people that you’re exposed to the most frequently and have a strong emotional tie to like family, close friends and coworkers.
Although they’re made up of great people, staying in this social comfort zone could be stopping you from getting your dream job or stumbling upon the next big thing because you’re exposed to redundant information.
Most career-related opportunities occur on the outer perimeter of your social network.
Sociologists call these people your “weak ties,” the people you may only see once or twice a year. Heck, they maybe people you’ve only ever interacted with on Twitter!
In a 1978, sociologist Mark Granovetter asked Boston locals who recently switched jobs how they got them. Of those asked, 82% said they got their job through someone they saw occasionally (more than once a year but less that twice a week) or rarely (once a year or less).
This validates the fact that we spend most of our time interacting with those inside our social comfort zone, but because of that we typically aren’t exposed to new stimuli.
When I was recently on a job hunt, I made it a point to get to the perimeter of my network and it exposed me to so many new companies and opportunities. I asked those closest to me for intro’s to people that they thought were smart and respectable in the industry.
Getting these introductions gave me a brand new perspective on the market and it led to so many interesting conversations with new people!
If you want to expose yourself to new ideas and opportunities, step outside of your comfort zone and start exploring groups based on your interests.
I call these “recreational groups” these are people or groups who you’re not obligated to hang interact with (unlike coworkers) and where you share a mutual interest.
An example of this may be a meetup group for runners or new folks you meet at an industry networking event.
These recreational groups expose you to “weak ties” where you can source the right information that you’re looking for, new ideas, new movie recommendations, business opportunities and introductions to even more new people!
One of my favorite examples of how participating in “recreational groups” pays off is how Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak met at the Homebrew Computer Club in Silicon Valley. These unlikely characters who had nothing in common, met serendipitously and found a common interest around computers. The rest is history.
This approach has also been proven within the workplace. In this fascinating study, researchers show the before and after effects of an employee who expands their social capital at work.
The “after version” of the employee is better positioned by being at the “crossroads of information” between social groups and it’s these networks that are associated with more creativity, faster learning, faster promotions and higher earnings.
5 Ways To Branch Out & Break Out Of Life’s Ruts
How can you step outside your “social comfort zone” and begin learning about new opportunities, ideas and people? You gotta go out there and meet people.
In the book The Startup of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, they talk about the importance of opportunities and serendipity.
If anyone is qualified to talk about this it’s Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and part of Silicon Valley’s “PayPal Mafia” a group of former PayPal colleagues who are known to help eachother out professionally and whose companies are collectively worth an estimated $75 billion.
Here’s what Hoffman has to say about stepping outside of your social comfort zone and success:
“Success begins with opportunities. Opportunities are like the snap to the quarterback in football. You still have to move the ball down the field; you still have to execute. But without a snap to the quarterback there’s no touchdown….
Opportunities do not float like clouds. They are firmly attached to individuals. If you’re looking for an opportunity you’re really looking for people. If you’re evaluating an opportunity, you’re evaluating people.”
That being said, here are five ways you can begin connecting with people outside of your social comfort zone.
Tip #1: Join Recreational Meetups
The web is a powerful tool if you’re seeking like-minded people, regardless of how “weird” your interests may be. Finding groups to join can help you find new “recreational groups” to participate in. Because there’s an established mutual interest you’ll find that it will be much easier to build rapport even though you’re meeting brand new people.
When attending these events find a few folks you “click” with and make sure you follow up and meet them in a more personal setting to deepen the relationship. You can easily do this by inviting them to grab a coffee and talk more one-on-one. Before you leave the event or conversation you can say something like:
“I really enjoyed our conversation, I’d love to chat with you in more depth. Can I get your [business card/email/phone number] to stay in touch? Perhaps we can grab a coffee when you’re free.”
Tip #2: Take Classes Tied To Your Passions (Not Job)
Whether it’s online or offline, you can meet like-minded people and learn something new at the same time. Schools like General Assembly, seminars and conferences offer great environments to push yourself out of your comfort zone in multiple ways and meet people new people outside of your social comfort zone.
There’s something unique about being in a situation where you’re with others who are vulnerable when learning something totally new. In these types of environments people tend to let down their guards and seek help from others. Use this to your advantage to make new connections with people.
Tip #3: Create your own Networking Group
Ben Franklin is one of the most important and influential entrepreneurs and politicians of our time, his social skills even helped America gain its freedom!
He was obsessed with self-improvement and even formed his own networking group (called the “Junto”) with some of the brightest minds in town from a diverse variety of backgrounds. They met weekly to share business intelligence, ideas and books. You can do this too!
Email a few of the smartest people that you know and make it a monthly, casual get-together to share ideas and discuss recent trends your industry. The trick is to invite those people and ask them to bring one new like-minded person with them so you can start meeting some weak ties.
Choose a venue that is easy to get into, laid back and centrally located for all those who are attending. It can be a restaurant or bar where everyone grabs a few drinks and connects.
By being the coordinator and getting people together, you’ll be viewed as a connector and it’s a great way to build new relationships. Here are some tips on getting people to say yes to an invitation.
Tip #4: Ask for Intros
You can ask for intros to new people from either your social comfort zone or your weak ties. Here’s a simple script you can use to ask people you already know to introduce you to new people.
Hope you’re doing well! I just created a personal goal to expand my professional network by meeting two new people in the [industry] per month.
I’m asking trusted friends in my network to introduce me to 1 or 2 of the smartest people they know, I simply want to take them to coffee and talk shop.
Would you feel comfortable introducing me to anyone in your network who would be interested?”
When you land meetings with new people you find interesting you can also ask them to introduce you to someone they’d recommend.
You can say something like:
“I really enjoyed our conversation. I’m working on meeting new people in the city. Do you have anyone in mind who you think would be interested in chatting with me about [specific topic]?”
Don’t be shy when it comes to asking for help or introductions, people actually like helping others and as long as you’re specific and genuine.
After asking for the intro, keep them in the loop and thank them for it, people like to know they’ve been helpful.
Inviting someone for coffee is a low-cost and casual way to get to know someone you admire. The web has made people so much more accessible than they used to be. I have a personal goal of getting coffee with at least two new people per month.
I connect with them via Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, Twitter, networking events, or second degree connections. These meetings have taught me things and opened up new career doors!
Conclusion & free mini-course
Stepping out of your social comfort zone is vital to improving your career and getting exposed to new ideas and opinions. Take advantage of your weak ties and don’t be afraid to proactively step outside of your social comfort zone by joining recreational groups, taking classes, creating your own networking group, inviting people out to coffee and asking for introductions.
This is a guest post by Katrina Razavi, founder of CommunicationforNerds.com. If you liked this article, visit her site to sign up for a free three-video mini course called: How to Have Charismatic Conversations. It covers six secrets to social confidence, the #1 strategy to improve your life and how to have natural conversations even if you’re super awkward.
- Granovetter, Mark. “The Strength of Weak Ties.” American Journal of Sociology Volume 78, Issue 6. May 1973.
- Burt, Ronald. “Network Brokerage: How the Social Network Around You Creates Competitive Advantage For Innovation & Top Line Growth.”
- Hoffman, Reid & Canosa, Ben. The Start-up of You. Random House: 2012.