It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. You know? Get-It-Done Guy has six must-have tips to get you started on building your professional network.
IN THIS ARTICLE YOU'LL DISCOVER
- Why meritocracy is a lie
- The reason networks are stronger than plans
- Six quick-and-dirty ways to up your networking game right now
Let's talk about networking for new college grads, and everyone else, too. This is part one of a two-part series. We'll talk about why networking is important and then move on to how to network like a pro.
But first, you've graduated—congratulations! That means you know all the things. For many years, you've reviewed syllabus after syllabus, delved into subject areas, gathered facts, run labs, and sweated through final exams. You worked hard and got the promised reward, a college degree.
I have nothing but deep respect and admiration for you and everything you’ve done. So much respect, in fact, that I’m going to tell you what I wish I had been able to tell myself at your age: Now, everything changes.
Why Networking Is Important for New College Grads
Meritocracy is a lie
When you depart college and head into the big world, you'll realize that no one cares whether you get the right answer. In the work world, you'll often be measured based on stuff like hours, and whether you wear the right clothes, and whether you come in between 8:05 and 8:45 and appear to be working hard enough.
As for your promotions, they may be based on your achievements. If you’re clearly an expert, people sometimes notice. But if they like you, people always notice. And the people who evaluate you will rarely have been trained to evaluate someone else’s work. What they’ll do instead is simply rationalize how they feel about you and that becomes your evaluation.
If you’re clearly an expert, people sometimes notice. But if they like you, people always notice.
What you really learned in school is how to do good enough work to be a useful cog. You learned how to take outside direction, accept evaluation humbly, and feel good when you perform the tasks you're given.
Welcome to real life.
Networks are stronger than plans
In a 2017 LinkedIn survey, nearly 80 percent of professionals considered networking essential to career success. Fortunately, if you know this going in—and now you do—you can start concentrating on the skills that actually help you get ahead in life. The most important is building and maintaining relationships. In other words, networking.
Imagine you’re standing on one side of a chasm. That where you're at now. On the far side of the chasm is the Life You Want, whatever that may be. What you need is a a bridge—something to get you across the chasm. The bridge would show you where to step next to make progress. Take enough steps and you’ll make it across. Up until now, your next steps have been pretty well mapped out. But the bridge forward after college is less stable. Unfortunately, if a plank or two comes loose, you’ll never make it to the other side. Bridges can be fragile.
Now imagine a net stretched across the chasm. You can walk across on the net. You’ll bounce. If you fall down, you might bounce backwards and lose ground, but you won't fall. You can’t know in advance the path you’ll take, but if strands of the net break here and there, it’s no big deal. You just shift to a more stable path.
That’s a net. That’s how life works from here on out. The strands are relationships, and they’re a much more robust way to run your life. Bridges can break; nets are more resiliant.