A few days ago, I listened to a Planet Money podcast about the rise of middleman. In the era of global connectivity, you would expect the Internet makes it easier for the manufacturers and buyers to cut out the middleman and find each other directly. Instead, the opposite has happened.
In a crowded space like the Internet marketplace, it is actually much harder for a buyer of product or knowledge to find the source. While information is out there, it takes longer and longer for us to get all of them before we make a decision. That’s why we take “short-cuts”, like looking at average ratings, or trusting the website to show us items that we want.
We are willing to pay a price, either big or small, to connect us with those who have what I need without wasting time.
Successful companies figured this out already. Amazon does this with merchandisers and shoppers. Uber does this for drivers and riders. Airbnb does this for property owners and renters. Facebook does this for social circles.
The future of the economy is not creating better products or higher demand. It’s connecting parties who need each other but are lost in this increasingly crowded but lonely world.
You may ask, “What does this have to do with me?”
Find opportunities in connections
After I started writing the Real Income Reports for Trailing Spouses series, a lot of people reached out to me and asked how they may find the right career path going forward.
I don’t know your specific talents, interests and experiences. But I can tell you this: whatever options you are contemplating, focus on the ones that allow you to connect people to what they need. Be a facilitator of connections.
As globetrotters, we are especially well suited to be facilitators of connections. We stand at an intersection of different cultures, values, and languages. You may be the bridge of two worlds that may not know each other without your existence.
It can be between your native culture and current environment, your old colleagues and new friends, your old career and your new adventure. Through your past and your present, you are a point of contact of two universes. It’s up to you to make the sparks.
So what are some specific ways you can be a facilitator of connections professionally?
#1: Showing direction
I did not start my business with facilitating connections in mind, but I can see now that’s how I bring value to my clients. Most of things that I provide my clients they can easily find on the Internet. However, most people just get confused by the amount of information and don’t know whether to trust it.
As an advisor, I connect my clients to the exact knowledge they need right now so they don’t have to research for hundreds of hours. I connect them to other professionals such as accountants and attorneys so they don’t have to vet all the options one by one. Moreover, I connect them to their values and their relationship with spouses, which we sometimes forget in the pursuit of solving financial problems.
#2: Connecting people
Whether you are currently in your home country or overseas, your network is your greatest asset in making a world a better place. Bring people from different backgrounds together and you will help foster understanding, find common grounds, and create new ideas.
Here are some examples. Atlas Corps, founded by a fellow globetrotter, leveraged the power of making connections to grow non-profit leaders worldwide. Tandem Nomads, a podcast I was honored to be a guest on, connected expat partners from different countries so can find inspiration and empowerment.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t make a profit from connecting people. Another globetrotter’s business, Serving Talent, connect trailing spouses with employers. As long as you are creating value from bringing people together, you’ve got a business opportunity.
#3: Being a filter
Believe it or not, voicing your opinion is also a way of facilitating connection. Do you know how many products are on Amazon? I don’t, because it’s impossible for a person to count. We need ratings or comments, in other words other people’s “opinion”, in order to sort through all of our options and make a decision.
People are looking for opinions all the time. Expressing you opinion through words or action will help connect people to the things they want. And they will pay you for it.
For example, I like shopping in small stores, simply because in big stores it takes forever to locate the item, not to say the brand I want. Inevitably, small stores carry fewer brands and items. However, if I find a small store that usually carry the things I like, I will choose to go there every time, even though the sticker price may be higher than a place like Walmart.
The owner of the small store is expressing her opinion through deciding what items to stock. Her opinion is similar to mine, so I TRUST her to be my filter.
You can be a filter too without taking on inventory. Be a professional reviewer. Explore affiliate marketing. Share products that only exist in your side of the world. You will find that your opinion matters, and to me that is very empowering.
Bring value through acting as a facilitator of connections
In my opinion, the sure way to find your purpose in this world is to bring value to those around you. What’s the first thing you can do to bring value? Connect people to what they need, even though you cannot provide those things yourself.
I think that’s why we all feel a sense of satisfaction when people ask us for directions on the street and we actually are able to provide it. It’s such a small act, but it fulfills our desire to be helpful, to be a facilitator of connections.
Only you know what your community needs and how you are uniquely positioned to meet those needs. It can be your local community, an online community, or even your expat community. Be in tune with what people are looking for, and be there to serve those needs. You will be rewarded both emotionally and financially.