When you hear the phrase, "It's all who you know," what do you think of?Influential people who can open a door for your career? Friends in high places who can throw you a bone? I think it's time we look at the phrase differently.
Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg (Flickr)
It's hard to find a career out there that doesn't benefit from networking in some way. The sometimes-awkward process of meeting new people on a professional level is practically essential to success. You never know who you'll run into who can change your career, your life, for the better — and vice versa.
But there's a certain "food chain" mentality that seems to permeate a lot of industries when it comes to networking. We think, "In this industry, it's all who you know" and the "who" stands for those in power, for those at the top of the food chain. The context has become "if I make friends with people at the top, I could be at the top one day too."
That's not necessarily wrong, but I do believe there's another way to look at that mantra. The "who" doesn't have to be someone at the top, and it doesn't even have to be someone who can help you right then and there. You may not even be able to help each other in any way shape or form, for now.
The "who" is simply someone who you recognise is passionate for the industry you're in — someone who has potential coursing through their veins. They could be at the bottom of the food chain, but one day they won't be, and neither will you.
Your goal is to create meaningful relationships with peers who all share similar professional goals. If you want to be a writer, surround yourself with other budding word-slingers and pick their brains. If you want to be an entrepreneur, find people online who share your ambition and brainstorm the next great idea. If you want to be a musician, go to open mic nights and chat with other musicians about finding a sound.
Put yourself out there and make contact. It's still "all who you know." But now your "who" is a support group, a cheer squad and — maybe one day — a friend who can do you a favour. Perhaps you'll be able to do the same thing for them down the line.
There's no sense in turning away help if it comes, but stop hunting the big dogs hoping they will pluck you from mediocrity and drop you right into their world of success. Stop looking for shortcuts. Instead, invest in those who know the path to the top will be long and hard, but walk it anyway.
Look for those who have a passion they desperately want to share with like-minded individuals. Look for those who will push you to be better and want you to push them. Look for people like you.