Want A Better Career? Find More Diverse Friends.

One of the most common phrases we hear as twenty-somethings is, ‘you’ve got your whole life ahead of you.’ While it’s true we will never be this young again, the mindset that thirty is the new twenty can make us wait around passively for great things to come to us. This attitude can make us stick to the same groups of people, towns, jobs, and supposed ‘talents’. Obviously, as humans we love our comfort zones, but is staying confined to these places and people hindering our career progression?

‘The urban tribe is overrated. Twenty-somethings who huddle together with likeminded peers limit who they know, what they know, how they think, how they speak and where they work’ says Meg Jay in her viral Ted X Talk, ‘Why 30 is not the new 20’. And that can impact your career.

The people we associate with can have a strong impact on how we think, and how we spend our lives. In terms of your career, “networking” is about people coming together to share ideas. If you communicate with a more diverse group of people – across age, gender, class and ethnic backgrounds – you can better understand the needs of your clients or customers. Which makes you better at your job. Makes sense, right?

If we look at start-up companies like Facebook, which was founded by people who met through new shared experience, we can see how many business opportunities are discovered through exposure to new people. Yup, you’ve got to put yourself out there.

Forget who you are, who do you want to be?

‘80% of life defining moments take place by the age of 35’, Jay tells us. Some of our life-defining moments may occur when we decide to enter into new relationships with different people. When people say “relationships are everything”, they’re on the money.

There’s a phenomena known as social proof, which means our self expression changes based on the people we hang out with: our self-perception, confidence and even the kinds of jobs we are open to accepting can all be evidence of the people we hang out with.

The ways we limit ourselves – like the opportunities we don’t even seek out – can come from status quo bias and tall poppy syndrome. We might hold ourselves back from growth opportunities due to fear of what our friendship group might think or say.

We might also change drastically simply by being around others. Jay informs us that personality changes more in our twenties than at any other time (probably during some of those life-defining moments).

Capitalise on your mindset and network

‘Forget having an identity crisis and get some identity capital – do something that adds value to who you are, do something that is an investment in who you might want to be next,’ Jay tells us. For those of us who might be affected by tall poppy syndrome, cutting down others destroys the capital we could be using for growth. Personally I think this kind of attitude stems from a fixed mindset and a fear of failure. Reframing our goals into a growth-oriented mindset, where learning new skills is more important than social constructs of success, is one of the most effective ways of negating attitudes of competitive toxicity or scarcity – whether these attitudes are our own or attitudes of our peers.

Networking is just as important when you don’t have a job (or a job you love) as when you do. If you don’t have a defined career trajectory you may find one by discussing your options and experiences with those friends that do. This doesn’t have to be in a business-oriented setting – it could be a casual chat about life with a mate that leads to unexpected outcomes. It’s through shared stories that people connect, and discover.

New things come from what are called our weak ties,Jay says. Expanding our circle through work, social groups, and even the subjects we research, can have an enormous impact on how our lives turn out and career trajectory, how much we earn ­­– and the person we will ultimately end up being.

Ellen Wardle is a Melbourne-based brand journalist. She instagrams prolifically over at @ellenbourne and spends most of her days terrified about the future of the housing market.