In 1999 two social psychologists called Dunning & Kruger studied people’s perception of their skills compared to their actual ability. Their initial findings showed that some people often over-estimate their ability as they don’t know enough to know they’re not that good. They then did some further work & found that highly skilled people often under-estimated their strengths; because they thought something was easy they thought everyone would find it easy & therefore discounted their own ability.
Why’s that last bit important?
Because often when we’re at work we can all lose sight of the skills we have when we just consider it “stuff that we do” - we stop realising we’re good at something just because we find it easy. Most interviewers will ask you to describe times that you’ve shown a skill so it’s important to think again about the what & the how & look harder at what makes you stand out. Are you the one the boss always asks to take on that extra task? Are you that go-to person the rest of the team turns to?
(For a quick video on the Dunning-Kruger effect, take a look at https://youtu.be/pOLmD_WVY-E )
With restrictions on getting together & needing to keep socially distanced, it might seem strange to say that we’re actually a lot closer to everyone than you may think, but that’s the idea behind “Six Degrees of Separation”. The theory was first set out in 1929 and suggests that you can make a link from between any two people in only 6 steps - you know someone that knows someone etc.
Once dismissed as the academic version of an urban myth, the birth of the internet & popularisation of email & messaging apps gave rise to some new research, in particular two studies, one via email & the other via Microsoft Messenger ( as it was called way back when!), that showed that the average number of steps (though not the maximum) was indeed 6.
So what? If you’re looking for work then working your contact list is probably more important now than ever, but the trick is to look beyond the people you immediately know, be confident to ask to speak to that friend of a friend and grow the chain from there. In business people have talked for a long time about building a network & LinkedIn’s model is based on supporting that so in a future piece we’ll give some tips on how best to use the site.