When I was in college, I was always told that it’s all about who you know. I heard this common saying from teachers, my parents, older friends and managers at my internships. It was very hard to disagree with this phrase because I had spent months interviewing to get a job upon graduation because I wasn’t comfortable networking. There were many opportunities for me to attend events, meet alumni and connect with friends, but I felt introverted and didn’t have the confidence back then to take the “networking leap.” By disregarding networking from my job search, I quickly found out that it was going to take me more time, energy and luck to get a job. Some of my friends called their uncles and parents and secured a job without even interviewing and I had found myself pledging to companies, just like I had done with my fraternity at college.
A new world with new rules
While networking could have given me a competitive advantage and saved me time in the corporate recruitment process, today it’s your cost of entry into the new world of work. The new rules are forcing us to become networkers, both with some degree of reach, engagement and reciprocity. The reason for this change is because our network, for the first time in history, is visible to anyone who wants to access it online, and competition to either get a job or get into college is massive now.
- Rule #1: Everyone with a pulse matters
- Rule #2: Less applications and more connections
- Rule #3: Nothing is for certain
- Rule #4: The internet is the primary recruiting source
- Rule #5: People need to be discovered
- Rule #6: Stay relevant or become extinct
- Rule #7: Quantity and quality of your network matters
- Rule #8: There is no work/life balance anymore, it’s just life
- Rule #9: Everyone is a consultant
- Rule #10: Your personal brand is all you have
I’m not going to go through all of these rules, but we can discuss them in the comments if you’re interested.
Rule #1 has really come alive to me recently when I was given an opportunity to speak to a large company because a college graduate heard me speak for free at her school. When she graduated, she got a job with this company and they were looking for speakers and she had already heard me speak so she made the referral. When this occurred, it really dawned on me that, not only does visibility translate into opportunities, but that everyone matters. You never know who will become what when they grow up or progress in their career, so you have to treat everyone very well. The internet has made the world smaller, so every action you take and every person you meet can extend to an even greater audience.
3 reasons why personal branding is essential for networking
At the beginning of this post, I was explaining how we all grew up with the idea that it’s all about “who you know.” I’d like to argue that it’s much more than who you know now. It’s who you know, who they know and who knows you. As mentioned in rule #7, the quantity and quality of your network are both equally important. I’d rather have Bill Clinton and CNN follow me on Twitter than one thousand people I’ve never heard of. Your influence and credibility will always expand when you’re associated or followed by people that are more successful than you are. The perception of the size of your network is also important because if you don’t seem like you’re “popular,” you won’t be taken as seriously.
1. Who you know
You know more people than you think you know. You’ve been networking throughout your life, sometimes without even thinking about it. All the people you say hello to in the morning, that man who exchanged business cards with you on your flight to Florida and certainly your parents and extended family. I believe networking is all about finding people that will go out of their way for you. If you revisit the “Networking Strength Model,” which is also captured in my book Me 2.0, you’ll notice that family is the most important part of your network, then friends and finally, acquaintances. When you know people, you can reach out to them. They will respond favorably if you’ve formed a healthy relationship with them and don’t come off as a “user.”
2. Who they know
If LinkedIn and Facebook have taught us anything, it’s the fact that we are all connected and have multiple degrees of our network. Your friend might not be able to hire you, but her friends fathers sons manager can. Without the internet, it was almost impossible to really figure out how we are all interlinked, but now we can perform searches on LinkedIn and identity people in each others networks that we’re interested in. Most of the time, your first degree network aren’t the people that are notifying you of job openings. Instead, their networks are posting jobs and you’re discovering them through your mutual contact. This is another reason why it’s better to have a thousand contacts than only a few. The more people you’re connected to, the larger your overall network will be.
3. Who knows you
It’s 2010 and beyond, you can’t just rely on traditional networking tactics to meet people anymore. In order to expand your horizons and filter the right people into your world, you need to be discovered. Just like a musician might be discovered in a club in LA, you need to be visible online so that people can find you. If you aren’t visible, then you don’t exist to the world. The more people that kn0w (I call this the sphere of influence in Me 2.0), the more opportunities you’ll receive and the more friends you’ll have that are genuinely interested in what you have to say. Some might call this inbound or attraction based marketing, but the core principle is that if people haven’t heard of you, you can’t do business with them. If your book doesn’t appear in Borders Bookstore, then people can’t buy it and if your CD isn’t available at Newbury Comics, then you’re out of luck too. Become an expert, achieve visibility and people will hire you.
What steps are you taking to become more visible online or offline? Has it resulted in new business opportunites?