We know diversity is important in the workplace and we all want to provide others with equal opportunities. But we don’t always seek diversity when it comes to our closest partnerships. In other words, although we might have friends from a variety of different cultures, ethnicities, and walks of life, we still gravitate towards people who share our preferences and values. It’s human nature, after all; we’re more likely to get along with people who like what we like and we assume that commonality will lead to closeness. But what if we built our professional relationships on the same principles we use to cultivate our circle of friends? Do you think this would lead to a more harmonious company culture or disaster? If you chose the latter option, you’re exactly right! When any network is bereft of diversity, it becomes myopic, close-minded, and flawed. That’s because we need to be pushed beyond our comfort zones. We need to be challenged and motivated by perspectives that are different from our own.
So, if you want to create a network that’s truly healthy and mutually beneficial, then you need to cultivate diversity. For example, if you’re an older sales executive and you grew up doing things “the old-fashioned way,” you might not be inclined to connect with the hip millennial that runs an up-and-coming vegan cafe. Maybe you worry that the two of you have nothing in common. Maybe you’re uncomfortable with new technology and you’re afraid of looking stupid in front of the new generation. Or maybe you feel as though the chasm between your generations is so great, there’s no hope of closing it enough to find commonalities. This can be especially true if you feel as though your generational business practices are superior or if you’re automatically dismissive of “those darn kids and their technology.” But although they sound divisive, those problems are actually just a list of reasons why you should go talk to them! In this case, both of you have something new and exciting to offer, and you can both benefit from a change in perspective. A simple conversation is a great way to learn new things, make new connections, and develop a healthy network. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to contacts whose values, areas of expertise, or attitudes are different from yours. Instead, be open to new opportunities. You’ll be surprised at what it can do for your network!