How to Expand Your Network (Increase Your Bacon Score)

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In 1994, one year after I came to the US, three students from Pennsylvania invented a trivia game called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”.  This game shows that any actor can be linked to Kevin Bacon through their film roles. 

The game was born while these students were watching a TV commercial showing Bacon’s recent film at the time.  The commercial led to a discussion on the wide variety of actors Bacon had worked with.  The concept of this game is to connect any film actor in history to Bacon as quickly as possible and in as few links as possible.  The Bacon score is also assigned to each actor or actress to determine the number of degrees of separation they have from Kevin Bacon.

I found this concept really fascinating and it reminds me of a quote by a wise man (I forgot whom):

“Your net worth expands in proportion to your network.” 

I am a true believer in this quote and even though I don’t really know Kevin Bacon’s net worth, my gut tells me that his net worth is probably not trivial.  In fact, if I can assign a “Bacon Score” to people like Bill Gates & Warren Buffet, their scores are probably a lot higher than mine or yours (for now).  J

In this article, I want to help you in two areas:  First, some ideas to expand your network; and second, some ideas to improve the quality of your network.

Expand Your Network

When I first came to the US it was hard for me with limited English to meet new people.  Naturally I was more inclined to hang out with people from my own country.  It didn’t take me long to realize that sticking with my own clan not only would limit my social network, but in many ways my future and career would also be limited.  After all the tremendous effort I went through in coming to the US, I at least owed it to myself to meet new people.  

After years of exploring and meeting people from all over the world, here are a few ideas to expand your network:

Interest Groups.  Meet people who love to do what you are interested in (for example:  Jazz, Movies, Hiking, etc) 

Toastmaster.  Meet people who are passionate about improving their communication skills

Volunteer Groups.  Meet people who are willing to give and help people

Continued Education.  Workshops and seminars are the best way to meet like-minded people who also want to keep growing and learning.

Continue to Explore New Networks.  Your friends now are probably not the same friends you had when you were in kindergarten.  As you grow as a person, your networks will naturally change.  Meanwhile, while it is comfortable to stay with your old networks, don’t stop yourself from exploring new networks.  I bet you wouldn’t say no to meeting friends of Kevin Bacon.        

Once You found Your Network

Just because you find the right network, doesn’t mean your network will expand. Just like everything else in life, you get as much as you give.  Here are a few ideas that can improve the quality of your network:

Show up.  Woody Allen quote that 80% of success is showing up. Showing up is the first sign of commitment and dedication.

Initiate.  Ask your new friends from your network out for happy hour or dinner.  Building a quality network takes time and sometimes you have to initiate these opportunities.

Volunteer.   Take on responsibilities and establish yourself as the “go to” person in the network.  Volunteer as the chair person at the next meeting or event.

Show them who you are.  Share your experiences and stories with people in the network.  People love stories.

Regular Contact.  The frequency of contact will determine your impact on the network.  If you are never there, how can people count on you?  On the other hand, if you are emailing people everyday, people won’t count on you neither.  There needs to be a fine balance there.

Become an expert. What are you good at?  What is your specialty?  By what do you want your friends to remember you?  Establish your creditability in the network as the expert in a particular area.

Connect Your Networks.  Once in a while you need to bridge the gap.  When the appropriate time comes (you will know), you can exponentially grow your network by connecting the dots.

Obviously there are many more ways for you to expand and improve your network.  But the only thing that really matters is that you continue to grow as a person by expanding and learning from your network.  If you forget everything else in this article, just focus on providing value to your network, I guarantee (yes I will) that you will receive amazing reward from your network.

By the way, after years of dismay about this game, Kevin Bacon finally embraced the idea and formed the social networking charitable website called with the goal to link people to charities.  See below.

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