It's All About Connections, Yes
It's all about connections, yes.
But only when dealt with correctly.
We live in a world filled with fierce competition, with more than one other person gunning for our dream job. We live in a world where, although our skills, accomplishments and other attributes are extremely important, "who you know" is also vital.
However, it is not simply about name dropping, connecting on LinkedIn, or attending networking events. It is also not about being fortunate enough to know "important" names from the get-go, because connections can be made at any time, in any place.
It's all about connections, yes. But how you gain these connections, how you sustain these connections, and how you grow these connections is what will make a difference—now and in years to come.
I present to you... Connections 101 (or tips I thought of while reflecting on how I have gotten to where I am today).
1. Quit attending events, start being present
I went through a phase where I was at every single networking event possible. Luncheons three times a week? Why not? But the reality is this, simply attending these luncheons not only takes away from your work day, but leaves you with a worse reputation than before. What I mean is this, you get there right before the half an hour of "networking" has concluded, you find a seat at a mostly empty table, you smile, give out a few business cards, listen (or pretend to), and you leave. How many people did you actually just meet? How engaged did you look?
My tip: Be present at these events rather than just "there." Get there early, extend your handshake to strangers, meet everyone, listen intently, soak it all in—people will notice. If that means you can only go once a week, then maybe that is okay. Choose the right events for you, schedule them in. And while you're there put your phone away, speak with others, be human—be present.
2. Don't think you're done at the push of a button
LinkedIn. Twitter. Instagram (and more). The online networking tools of today. You go to a conference, a speaker gives you their Twitter handle, you "follow" them. You're done. Wrong.
My tip: Don't let your connection stop there. Whatever the platform is, remain relevant in your connections' eyes by sharing relevant information, interacting with their posts, re-sharing their content. In certain situations, send a message and thank them for their time or follow-up on your initial meeting. FYI—everyone knows how to press "follow," not everyone knows how to remain relevant and stand out.
3. Don't focus on the "who"
All too often, people focus on the precise person they need to get in contact with in order to get ahead in their field. This can appear, when done aggressively, as self-serving and ingenuine (does it just appear that way, though?). While being strategic with whom and where you allocate your time is important, it is also not the only thing to consider.
My tip: So you got seated a table away from the person (CEO) you actually want to meet, that doesn't mean that the people at your table don't have anything to offer. Whether that's a nice conversation about the weather, or an in-depth conversation about hydrodynamics, you never know what could be in store for you.
This rule goes for life as well. Never discard an encounter or relationship. Everyone has something to offer in this world. Everyone deserves to be heard, and everyone deserves your time. This could come with no obvious benefit to you, however you never know when someone you meet today, might be a vital piece of your life tomorrow. Not to mention, you can learn quite a bit from the most unexpected people.
3. Use your pool
So you have now spent time, energy, and brainpower making connections. You have many acquaintances, but you're stuck. Or so you think.
My tip: Use the resources you have spent the time giving yourself. You need help with a video project? Think back to the time you met a videographer on your trip to Tahoe and had a great conversation about outdoor videography. Rekindle that connection. Sometimes, you already have the connection you need and you might not even realize it.
4. Don't name drop (obviously)
I'm not going to go further.
My tip: Don't be that person. Be a normal human, know who you know and let your skills and knowledge do the rest of the talking.
6. Quit saying, "they're lucky"
Your friend has a connection to your dream company. You're jealous. They're lucky. The end.
My tip: Go out and do some research. Your friend of a friend of a friend knows someone that works there. Reach out. Make your own connections, make yourself "lucky."
7. Don't think of them as business connections
Don't overthink your way into inauthentic motives.
My tip: Think of them as people, treat them as people, be kind to them as people.
In the end, it's about connections, yes, but more importantly, it's about relationships. Nurture those relationships, be open to new relationships, and let your relationships grow into new opportunities.