1st and 2nd Degrees of Separation vs 3rd and 4th Degrees of Separation: A Critically Powerful Concept

This is the second of three posts talking about Degrees of Separation. Yesterday I talked about how to drill deeper in your network by asking the “who do you know” questions.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about how we do this in JibberJobber (with the Tree View and Referred By).  It’s very powerful, and easy to use.

Today I want to talk about the differences between the 1st/2nd Degree Contacts and the 3rd/4th Degree Contacts. The common term for this is “degrees of separation.” Degrees of separation was popularized by the whole Kevin Bacon’s degrees of separation thing.

Degrees of separation in a crowd

A job search coach (I wish I could remember who… it’s been about 6 years) told me something like,

“You get your job leads from your 3rd and 4th degree of separation contacts, not from your 1st and 2nd degrees of separation contacts.”

The Power of Degrees of Separation

Please read that quote above one more time. It is SO important to anyone who is trying to get value out of networking.

Profound. Powerful.  And when I had just a spreadsheet to organize my job search, very FRUSTRATING.  I couldn’t keep track of that.  And LinkedIn would change it, if a 4th Degree Contact decided to connect with me.

It makes sense because my 1st Degree Contacts are my close friends and family and they typically have nothing to do with my industry (but I still like them) :p  Going to them time and again can be exhausting and embarrassing.  You aren’t going to ask them every week “do you have a job opening for me yet?”

If you ask them for and introduction to someone in your industry or profession, they might introduce you to someone who is a great person to talk to, but might not know of any opportunities.

But, think about this, when you as THEM, the 2nd Degree Contact, for an introduction, they might get you much closer.  This 2nd Degree person should be someone in your industry or profession… and know someone who you should talk to.  You should be able “speak the same language” enough to gain a level of trust, and let them know you are ready for a real introduction.  This person might be plugged in to someone who is influential, in-the-know, etc.

Getting to Your Deeper Degrees of Separation

That’s your 3rd Degree Contact.

This is the person who really might know of some openings at their company or locally.

If they don’t, they surely know some great people to introduce, who become your 4th Degree Contacts.

It’s not that one person is BETTER than another.  But as you get deeper you can get CLOSER to the right person at your target company, or that knows about openings.

Imagine a number of introductions… even 4th Degree Contacts, at your target companies.


degrees of separation shocking concept

And it generally comes through introductions.


I know you are meeting people… going up to them and introducing yourself.  That’s good.

I dare you to network DEEPER.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about how to track that in JibberJobber.

Degrees of Separation: A Cautionary Example

When I started my job search, and then my business, I learned that networking was critical. It wasn’t fun, until I learned how to do it, and what networking really was, but I knew that it would be a key to my success.

I focused and leaned on my first degree contacts. I was shy asking for introductions, hoping people I had relationships with would really pull through for me. That was an unfair expectation.

I was sure most of the value of “networking” would come from my first degree contacts. Friends and family. People who knew and cared about me. People I had invested in.

I was wrong to put such high expecations on people who really didn’t know how to do a job search.

When my kids were in martial arts they learned that an effective punch doesn’t stop at the hit, rather it follows through, past the hit. You don’t stop pushing your punch forward the instant you touch the opponent.

Same with golf, baseball, etc. You have to follow through. This is proper form.

Networking is the same. Don’t stop at the first, or even the second, degree. Follow through. Ask for referrals. Ask, then ask again, and ask those people. Get used to this good form. Respect each person, and ask who they can introduce you to.

This is one of the most powerful concepts I have learned.

Ask for help to get deeper into your degrees of separation


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