You’ve probably heard it a million times: It’s not what you know; it’s who you know. In terms of your career, what this old adage is saying is that, if you really want to get that dream job, you’re more likely to get it if you have the right connections.
Connections are extremely important when it comes to your career. People are more likely to grant someone an interview or hire them when they’re recommended by a trusted colleague. But unless your connection to someone is authentic (i.e., genuine) and meaningful, there’s little chance they’re going to want to stick their neck out to help you.
So how do you start to build your network of meaningful, authentic connections?
When you think about connecting with people in the modern world, the majority of it is done online through social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—all of these and so many more enable us to connect with others around the world and share information almost instantly. When it comes to making professional online connections, LinkedIn has become the platform of choice. Not only does it serve as the modern resume, but it also gives users a way to connect or link up with others with whom they’d like to do business. For students and job seekers, it’s an amazing tool for reaching out to people who are already working in your particular field. The thing is, just connecting isn’t good enough.
Every week it seems I get a request in my LinkedIn mailbox from a student or someone else who’s looking to build a career in writing. I’m all about helping others; I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer without the help of so many mentors and friends along the way providing valuable advice and guidance. So when I get these requests to connect, I usually accept them. The problem is…that’s usually the last I hear from them. I assume they were wanting to connect with me to ask my advice on something or possibly to see if I can introduce them to one of my other connections, which I’d be glad to do. But rarely, if ever, does that happen.
I don’t know you. I don’t know what you’re looking to accomplish in your career. So why would you expect me to want to help you without you first at least trying to establish a meaningful, authentic connection with me?
If you really want to make your LinkedIn connections work for you, work on your connections. Reach out to people you’ve connected with. Send them a message and let them know that you admire their work or that you’re looking for advice. Ask them if they’d be willing to chat with you over the phone or, if possible, maybe even offer to buy them a cup of coffee. Let them know why you’ve reached out to them and how they might be able to help you. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to give of their time and knowledge if you do just one simple thing: ask them.
Social media can be a powerful, convenient way of connecting with people. But it can only get you so far. The truest, most meaningful connections are still made through face-to-face interaction. When you meet people in real-world situations, it enables them to get to know you on an entirely different level, one that you just can’t replicate online.
The best way to meet others? Get active. Get involved. If you’re still in school, look into what professional associations are available to you. Find out what volunteer opportunities your school offers. Join clubs. Attend talks on campus. Don’t be afraid to try things that are outside of your comfort zone. The key is diversity. The more activities you’re involved in, the more different types of people you’ll meet as you grow your network. Who knows? One of the connections you make today by being involved could come back to help you years down the road when you’re trying for that dream job.
How Can You Help Others?
When you’re making connections and growing your network, it can be easy to think only of yourself. After all, that’s why you’re connecting with these people—to help you get where you want to be in your career. The thing is, if you want people to help you, you should first find out how you can help them. It’s only natural that people want to return the favor when someone helps them. So when you reach out to someone you think might be able to help you in your career, stop and think first how you might be able to help them. If you can’t think of anything, just ask them. Literally. Tell them you admire their work and that you were wondering if there’s anything you can do to help them. You may think that you don’t have anything to offer, but you’d be surprised how others are able to see value in you that you can’t even see in yourself.
The old saying is true. Who you know can go a long way in helping you get where you want to be in life. Just make sure that the people you connect with really know you, and that what they know about you will make them want to be a genuine and valuable connection in your network. ~