Is ‘who you know’ a skill?

Seems like well-connected people always come out on top. Sometimes people say “it’s not what you know but who you know” in a negative way because they are not moving up the corporate ladder fast enough or others get ahead before they do. This is an unhealthy and disruptive way of thinking, and the main route of thinking is jealousy.

This article is not about the negative connotation but rather about the positive outcomes that come from networking and building mutually beneficial relationships.

Take this issue back to the foundation stage of what we as children are taught or what parents and teachers focus on. Are simply what kids know or what people can learn about things, the only important aspect of education and what they will need for their future work life? Whom you know might be more important than you think. So shouldn’t we shift some focus on teaching people how to build relationships and networks or support structures? Focussing on the ‘who we know’ part, is becoming an extremely important skill.

While reading an article on businessinsider.com, this interesting title got attention – “Networking: It’s not about whom you know, it’s about who knows you.” Powerful and so true, don’t you think? Why think about only what others can do or mean to you in the world of work? Why not think about how meaningful and beneficial you can be for others?

You are your own marketer or sales representative. The key to any successful sales agent in today’s business world is relationships and networks not only in the workplace but also socially. Forefront sales people focus on adding value to their service or product. They focus not on ‘what is in it for them’, but rather on what they can do to make the experience memorable and create a sound relationship to ensure return business.

So you should do as well. Networking is a skill brought on by various other skills. When you build your confidence and assertiveness skills together with your communication skills, you will be more comfortable when you are presented with a networking opportunity. Don’t be afraid to let people know who you are. Stand proud.

Don’t be afraid to be opinionated. People trust that and they admire that you can stand up and voice your opinions. However stay clear of being too opinionated relating to religion and politics and keep opinions that borderline on gossip to yourself. What we are trying to explain here is that you should make informed opinions that get people to think.

Positive and self-motivated people are networking gurus. When in a networking opportunity they have sound goals in mind.

- They start by going up to people they know, greet them and catch up. By doing this they maintain old connections and relationships.

- From there new people join, so they shift their focus on meeting new interesting people and start conversing with them.

- Then, through the conversations, they create opportunities and think how they can do something for someone else.

To recap, networking is not the skill of collecting as many business cards as you can, or by trying to be the biggest fish in the sea with sweet talk and twisting of arms. It’s about the value you offer to others. It’s about penetrating different aspects of business fields and interests. It’s about learning yourself and getting to know others. It’s about developing people skills and emotional intelligence. It’s about leaving a memorable statement of yourself in others frame of thought. It’s about you giving and then receiving.

*The Mindspa Insitute is a soft skills training company who offer various skills training courses nationally and internationally. Visit www.themindspa.co.za or email liezl@themindspa.co.za for more information.