In the not-so-distant past, it was enough to show up on time, do good work, collect a paycheck, and bide your time. If you performed well at any one company for X amount of time, it was reasonable to expect you’d be promoted, get a raise, and keep climbing the ladder.
However, in today’s world, that kind of diligence and loyalty won’t push you ahead in nearly the same way it used to. You hear people complain that today, “it’s all about who you know.” And it’s true: who you know is what it is all about.
Having your success dependent on “who you know” is not bad news; it’s great news – especially if you don’t have connections, access, or fancy credentials… yet.
The past 15 years have led to a shift from an industrial economy to what’s called a “connection economy”. In a connection economy, your ability to get ahead, climb the ladder, and secure a great career depends almost entirely upon your relationships with others.
So the “connection” part of this connection economy actually helps level the playing field a little bit. Not all of us could afford expensive schools or SAT prep courses. Not all of us were raised with privilege that we could leverage to help us find a killer job. But ALL of us can meet and get to know people. No matter who you are, what your background is, or where you live, it’s easier than ever to meet people you don’t know and turn those strangers into friends.
Because of the ease in which we can make friends, and the immense value these relationships can possess, networking is not something you do only when it’s convenient or when you’re looking for a job. It’s something you do all year long! You should always be tending to your network, by building, growing, and investing in your current relationships as well as the new ones you make.
It Takes Time
We all know good relationships do not happen overnight. Truly meaningful relationships with influencers and people who can help you find a job right now don’t happen overnight. You want to always have a set group of people you’ve already been tending to, through communication, help, and overall added value. You never know when a new opportunity might arise.
Let’s say your company has a job opening in your department. You have a colleague you’ve known for years who’s been looking for a new role. He checks in on occasion, always keeps you up to date with what’s going on in his world, and he’s helped you out more than once with random things that have come up with clients. He sends you great articles that keep you in the loop and makes you look good in front of your boss.
I’d be willing to bet you’d recommend him for the job without him even being asked. You’d probably tell him about the opening before it was even listed on a job board. Not only would you do this for a long-standing relationship that you know and trust – you would hope and believe he’d do the same for you.
Be a Helping Hand
You can see how exciting advancements – ones we may know nothing about – are completely contingent upon our network. People want to help those who they like and more often than not the people we are most fond of are our friends. They are people who will introduce us to new opportunities, push us in new and exciting directions, mentor us and offer guidance. Our friend’s open doors we believed to be inaccessible, and add value to our lives. They are not the people who simply handed us a business card at a networking event last week.
Remember, this is not something that happens overnight and there are no “hacks” to shortcut this process. Don’t wait long enough to discover this reality for yourself. You can’t shortchange, fake, or hack true connections and real relationships. Period.
The only way to win this game is to continuously be sincere, to be genuinely curious in others, be proactive and helpful, with the intention to build relationships and get to know people. And it never ends. You never stop reaching out, communicating, and adding value where you can. The sooner you internalize this mindset, the sooner your network will grow without you doing anything beyond showing up and being you.