The other day, someone said to me, “You are a connector. You put people together and magic happens.”
I was a bit confused. It’s no secret that I don’t really like networking, and I’m also an introvert—hardly a recipe for someone with a reputation for bringing people together. What could they have meant when they called me a connector?
That remark stuck with me, mostly because it seemed so incongruous. Sure, I liked putting others in touch with people who could help them, but that could hardly be considered networking, could it? Was I really someone with a gift for uniting people, or did I just seem that way, whether due to my role or my company?
As an experiment, I decided to start keeping track of when and how I connected people. For a couple weeks, I noted down the connections I facilitated. These included:
Putting a founder in touch with an executive who led a business in a space they were struggling with
Helping reduce a B2B service bill by connecting a founder with someone at the company
Introducing a VC to a friend who was looking to start something in same space
Suggesting a new role for a former team member who was on the market and connecting her with a hiring manager
Referring two potential clients to a former colleague who had started a consulting service
Sharing a list of great board candidates with a company looking for a new board member
Introducing a potential executive candidate for an open role at a friend’s company
All the connections total took maybe an hour or two to make, but seeing people come together to make things happen was really gratifying—almost like magic.
Looking back on these moments was eye-opening. I had never viewed this as networking; rather, I saw it as solving a puzzle. Whenever I saw the ends of two threads that needed to be knit together, I couldn’t help but want to do so.
What I never realized was this: that is exactly what being a connector is. It’s about taking two people who are both looking for the same thing and finding a way to create a win-win scenario. Making a great connection is not an imposition, but rather a gift for both parties.
When we think of networking, we often picture ourselves as one of the people being introduced, and not the one making the introductions. But when you’re the person facilitating relationships between others, you have the satisfaction of seeing two puzzle pieces come together and helping to solve a problem. You also get to reap the rewards—whether directly or indirectly—of the connections you helped create.
Connecting others may be one of the most overlooked forms of networking, but used correctly, it can pay major dividends. So for today’s post, let’s dive into what it means to be a connector, and the value it can bring to you and the people in your network.
Why connecting people matters
Studies have shown that weak ties are actually better at getting people opportunities than close ties. The reason for this is that close ties travel in the same network. Those who are further afield from you can actually help you expand your circle of possible new relationships and links.
The science backs this up. A 1973 study cited in Forbes by sociologist Mark Ganovetter, called “The Strength of Weak Ties,” talks about how people innovate and expand their thinking because of ideas from those who are less close to them (ref). Their reach extends your reach, and yours extends theirs. The same article refers to a recent study in the journal Science, which examined job opportunities based on people’s LinkedIn connections. Interestingly, those who were suggested weaker ties “had more job mobility than those who received more recommendations for close connections” (ref). In other words, distant connections opened more doors for them than those they were more likely to know.
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