Building Your Social Capital As A Student
It’s not about what you know, it’s about whom you know’ . Haven’t you heard a lot of that lately? We can fit this into a jargon-my word; ‘Social Capital’. Social Capital can be defined as “networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups. …..that definition is slightly putting off! But here is a scenario worthy of imagining. Recall the first time you made your first friend in high school. Possibly in the first few days of the school and you lean forward to the person sitting around to introduce yourself. ‘Hello, My name is …..’ Flash forward 15 years later, you are having a great job which was introduced you to by this person’s uncle’s colleague. Wait! You’re probably thinking that such things don’t happen in real life. It is too good to be true! How about we establish that you do know Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey and Cristiano Ronaldo? Yes, according to the ‘Handshake rule’ you are at maximum 6 handshakes away from any of these three celebrities mentioned. World-famous psychologist, Stanley Milgram coined the ‘Small world experiment’ where he empirically proved that anyone in the world is separated/connected via six persons. Interesting, isn’t it?
Now think about the dream job you wish to apply for, the famous angel investor you wish to pitch to or an award-winning academician you wish to collaborate with. That person is just six handshakes away. The idea of Social Capital lies in reducing these handshakes and getting connected to people you wish to collaborate with faster! If you ask any successful person about what would he credit his success to, it would be being with the right set of people at the right time. Social Capital helps you identify these bunch of right people of whom when the timing is correct can launch you into successful paths unimaginable.
According to LinkedIn’s 2019 job report, 85% of jobs are filled because of connections and because someone knows someone. More than 80 % of work freelancers receive is due to the references they get. Relationships are the most valuable and constantly appreciable currency available to you. The more you invest in developing relationships, the better outcome it shall start reaping for you. Think about social capital as a library of books you have just started maintaining. Every book has new knowledge to offer and can shape your lives in different ways, similarly, every contact you develop can aid you to achieve your goals. Business Networking International ( BNI ) managed to make thousands of people aware of their social capital and thereby making them successful. The organisation last year managed to rake in more than 15 Billion dollars who have their presence in over 74 countries. Other organisations such as Rotary club, Lions Club or AIESEC have been able to create communities of like-minded people who can make a positive difference to the world.
Take the example of Hitesh, a successful startup entrepreneur who is planning to go to Stanford Graduate School of Business for an MBA. When asked by his friends about his decision where he has learnt almost everything about managing and running a business, his reply was ‘to simply build my social capital’. The connections he makes at Stanford matter more than the learning he gains and he willing to invest 1 year in developing that. Social Capital has the potential to take you places where your learning might not. But a great combination of knowledge and social capital is the perfect recipe for success!
By now, you must be scrolling down your phonebook to identify who exactly can be called as a part of your ‘Social Capital’! The best part of developing social capital is that its all-inclusive! Because you don’t know whom and from where can come to your help!
Although, Social Capital can be categorised into 5 categories :
Caring Friends & Adults:
Emotional support, companionship, and validation provided by family members, peers, and close relationships with unrelated adults.
Near-Peers & Role Models:
Ideas, inspiration, and behaviour patterns explained or modelled by direct contacts, or individuals “met” only through history, entertainment, or other worlds (including fiction).
Mentors & Coaches:
Informational support, counselling, emotional support, and validation built on a relationship of mutual knowledge and trust.
Networks & Weak Ties:
Connections to any form of social network including one’s “strong ties” (friends and close relationships) and “weak ties” (acquaintances and friends of acquaintances).
Resources & Connectors:
Informational, instrumental (financial, material, services), and social support accessed through networks and individuals helping bridge or broker connection.
Now a great exercise is to categorise your connections into these 5 categories and develop deeper commitments towards maintaining and enhancing the relationships. Moreover, developing social capital neither are shallow relationships nor are developed for selfish motives. A youngsters pursuit of social capital can be genuine and always becomes two way. Meaningful relationships between individuals prosper when both the parties can add value to it and social capital helps you unlock that value!
Here are the top 6 ways to start to unlock and develop your Social Capital :
1.Always carry your coordinates card even if you don’t have a business :
Mention your name, coordinates and your location. Don’t shy away from including what are you currently seeking professionally. A great example would be that ‘Name, Surname; Location, University and then include “Digital marketing enthusiast” if you are seeking jobs, internships in the digital marketing domain.
2.Build a diverse network:
Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother always had a ‘Guy’. A suited guy, a music guy, a coffee guy, a legal guy, a guy to get you a guy! The social capital true value lies in how diverse your network. Interact with people from different walks of life, from different professions and most importantly, from different age groups
3.Offer first rather than asking first:
‘Ask what you can do for the person in your social capital rather than thinking what can he do for you. Explicitly asking for help isn’t going to add much value to you. Offer help or connections upfront and see how the magic of Social capital will start to unroll.
4.One new connection everyday rule:
This might seem difficult at the start, but it gets easier as weeks pass it gets embedded in your lifestyle! Imagine, that at the end of one year you can cultivate the benefits 365 new relationships.
5.Have an elevator pitch about yourself ready :
Always be ready to share with the folks you meet with your professional goals and areas of interest. Not only it becomes a great conversation starter but also triggers thoughts in the opposite person’s head to all the places he could connect you to.
6.Surround yourself with power connectors:
Networking is more of a lifestyle than a conscious approach. Identify power connectors within your friend circle and hang out frequently with them. These are the folks who love connecting different people, recommend and refer their friends to help them achieve their goals. Soon you Social capital building will come naturally to you!
Now as you are equipped with all the ways you can unlock your Social Capital, you can confidently approach your professional goals by the help of people around you. Just remember, no dream too big.. no person too far away to reach! At DICE Ecosystem, we consciously develop your social capital building skills. So as students, you can unlock opportunities you have never thought before! We provide you with a canvas of opportunities and a buffet of connections. It all depends on how well can you leverage these connections for yourself!