Another advantage of a diverse network is that it expands the thought processes of the index individual. Different ideas always challenge and expand one’s reasoning ability. Furthermore, a large, diverse network will help the index individual expand his/her view of the world from a limited local perspective to a more global view, depending on the size of the network. For example, if our hypothetical young assistant professor’s network is limited to peers, the issues and solutions tend to be only those of individuals in that same professional standing. With a larger, more diverse network, the issues still include those assistant professors face, but will also cover broader topics that are equally, if not more important, particularly when it comes to career advancement. It is intellectually stimulating to expand one’s horizons and learn about other aspects of life, both professional and nonprofessional.
Explore This IssueDecember 2012
Mentoring throughout one’s career is very important for advancement. One type of mentor is an individual who is appointed to advise or guide a more junior inexperienced individual. Formal mentoring arrangements can be useful, but we have found most mentees naturally gravitate to a more senior individual of their choice for guidance. This relationship is clearly part of a network, and it is likely that several members of the network serve as mentors, each with an area of expertise valuable to the index individual, again supporting the concept of a diverse network.
How does one develop a diverse network? Passiveness rarely works, and so the individual should push one’s comfort zone and actively seek out individuals to include in the network as appropriate. Strong, diverse networks do not develop overnight, and most successful individuals have developed their network over time, always expanding it and nurturing its members. As a network grows, it actually becomes easier to expand because the existing members will introduce the index person to other members of their networks, causing an almost exponential growth. Furthermore, expansion means inclusion of the index individual in the networks of the other network members, which can be a valuable source of contacts for advice, information or other purposes.
The power and techniques of developing a network are taught in business school because the importance of a network in any business is critical to success. Medical schools generally do not emphasize the development of a network, which is a shame because it leaves the medical student adrift with regard to this critical aspect of professional development.