Power of Who
Who we know can be more important than what we know. No, I am not here to discredit the power of education and experience. Skills and knowledge are absolutely necessary for success. However, if you think about it, who we know has major influence over the opportunities that are presented to us.
When you think of networking, what comes to mind? When I was first introduced to the term "networking," I assumed this meant false interest, phony handshakes, and empty questions. I thought people only network to get something out if it. The idea is so selfish. It was not until I began actively networking during my second year of college that I began to understand its importance and benefits.
Networking is so much more than meeting people who can do something for you. Sure, it is essential to grow professionally in the business world; but, in a broader sense, networking is using the power of human connection to uncover something biggerthan ourselves. When executed properly, networking leads to new opportunities, ideas, products, and even industries. To network effectively, it's crucial to establish good relationships, which means making others feel valued. Being conscious of how you interact with others is the turning point between making someone feel valued and making them feel used.
View networking as getting to know others and letting others get to know you. It's that simple. Do not focus on the end goal--your personal benefit--for the duration of your professional interactions. Get to know other people for the sake of creating genuine relationships. Human interaction is something we have become so bad at, and we wonder why there is so much corruption in corporate America.
Everyone is familiar with "The Hallway Smile." You know what I'm talking about--that half smile you give when you walk past someone in the hall you hardly know; and then you look down and try to walk as fast as you can back to your office/department. Why do we do this? Why are we so afraid to interact with people? "They aren't in my department, so it doesn't matter," is what I used to tell myself. That is the wrong perspective from which to see. Every interaction matters. Everyone matters.
Ryan Berryman, Director of Operations of Men's Basketball at the Univsersity of New Mexico and former Student Regent on the UNM Board of Regents, shared with us his insight on networking and professional relationships.
Ryan graduated with his Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from the University of New Mexico in May of 2015, and with his MBA in December of 2016. "You need to have meaningful relationships with people. Don't try and know people for the sake of knowing people. It is equally as important to know the little people as it is to know the big people," he discusses. Yes, it is important to get to know those above you--this is how you gain respect and recognition. Many forget, though, that position on the totem pole is not indicative of worth. Every person you meet has something special to offer your life.
"Every man I meet is superior to me in some way and has something to offer me." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Everyone you meet knows something that you do not. Remember that. More importantly, though, we must remember that creating relationships is about giving, not receiving. Ryan shared with us a quote by Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat last: "You judge the character of a man by how he treats people who may or may not be able to do anything for him." When we are able to genuinely care about another person, their interests, and what they offer to the world, relationships and interactions drastically increase in value, and the benefits become more than you had ever anticipated.
"A lot of stuff happens unintentionally," Berryman states, "One opportunity usually leads to another." So many people are afraid to take the first step in networking--talking to people. There are some individuals who have been blessed with the gift of perfect social skills. But if you're anything like me, you will have to really work at networking. "A good way to meet people is by getting involved in the community," explains Berryman, "Follow your passion and make the most of it. Work is also a great place to meet people." We spend the bulk of our day at work. Most of us see our coworkers more than we see our own families.
"Relationships typically begin within work and then you follow it up with little things," says Ryan. Your coworkers have the potential to be your greatest professional allies, and we must not take them for granted. "Never be afraid to reach out and ask for advice. Start small," he advises. Your coworkers and superiors want to see you succeed, and reaching out for advice and support will not go without benefit. Find a great mentor who you can trust, and it will go a long way.
If you take anything with you today, let it be this: Networking is one of the most effective and powerful tools in achieving success. Create genuine relationships and make the people you meet feel valued. Find a great mentor you can trust, and never be afraid to ask for help. We're all on the same team; we need only to play like we are.