“Birds of a feather flock together” or in one word, homophily, is the natural tendency of people to hang around with people having common interests. It feels natural. However, if your interests are narrow, this can massively backfire.
The IT domain, to pick an example, can easily create such social bubbles, from which people rarely step out. People working in the same industry, similar companies, similar fields of interest. Ok, so what’s wrong with it? It’s normal for people hanging together to share interests.
Well, once you start living in a bubble, you lose awareness. Therefore, events happening around you might take you by surprise, even knock you down or simply shock you. In addition, it limits your self-development since you are lacking exposure. It affects your ability to do a realistic self-assessment. Losing contact with reality can be overwhelming.
The problem here is not the common ground we share as people, but the size of the bubble we build. Small social bubbles can easily become tight. That is why networking events, seminars, conferences, even virtual ones are beneficial, because they enlarge the bubble you live in, gradually.
Working in the same company years in a row, maybe on the same position, might leave you thinking that you have a deep insight, while you actually get to know only the reality you’ve created. It might even make you believe you are in a leading position in the market.
I remember when I was working as a software tester, that the first time I went to a MeetUp, and a friend asked me how was it, my first reaction was: “It’s awesome, but it’s gonna make you feel so stupid!”. That was because it opened my eyes to what was happening in other companies, on completely different business domains and showed me a whole set of new tools. And trust me I wasn’t an ignorant, by all means no, but if you ever get to a place (in line with your interests) and you feel like you’re the dumbest in the room, that’s great! It means you have an extremely good chance to grow in that place.
Second, don’t overthink it, if you want to explore. You don’t have to figure out all the steps in one go. Just take a step in one direction, see what you find. If you don’t like it, change direction. Explore! You’re not a tree, you’re not meant to stay in one place. Employers rarely invest in sending you to seminars, events, conferences and the cost can sometimes be steep. Don’t worry, if you make it a priority, you will find the events you need, for free or a more than reasonable price.
Third: be open. Listen to what others have to say, see what others are doing, try it. Looking at the world through same old filters, will leave you colour blind. Keep an open mind, try to understand why others are doing things differently, try what they do, see where it takes you. Somehow, although a passive activity, listening is the hardest. Hearing is easy but listening is an active effort.
You cannot stay relevant in the market without interacting and connecting. You cannot upgrade your skills without being curious first. As a heads up, those around you living in their own bubbles and who feel comfortable there, will try to hold you back, because by evolving, you’ll shine a light on their mediocrity.
Break the bubble, cause when bubbles pop they leave sparkles behind 🙂