How Do You Know Who You Know?

The old adage is true: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Don’t be mistaken. Of course it’s what you know once you get the interview and get your name added to payroll. But getting that first step through the door will most often come from a personal connection from your network.

Now, before we all start to panic about networking (do we need a new word for it that doesn’t carry so much baggage?), remind yourself that your network as it stands now is at least twice as big as you think it is. It’s true! You just have to connect some dotted lines. So how do you do that? The easiest place to start is with your friends and family. Get in touch with them and find out if they know people who have similar interests, skills, or career aspirations as you.

Next, go back to school! Well, go back to the alumni association at least. Re-connect with classmates and professors. Join alumni groups and attend meet-ups. Make use of the Career Services provided by your college or university; alumni can usually take advantage of their services as well. Make sure to stay connected with former colleagues and supervisors. If you can, have letters of recommendations written before you need them, that way you already have it on hand and don’t have to ask for one last minute. Join professional organizations and attend their events. And don’t forget about people who provide services to you! Your doctor’s brother may be in advertising, or your tax preparer’s niece might own a design studio.

Social media is probably the easiest way to accomplish most of these tasks and you should utilize these tools to the best of your ability (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), but never underestimate the value of a face-to-face meeting, or even picking up the phone. The more personal the connection you have with someone, the stronger it will be. The idea here is not just to gain numbers, but also to gain remembrance. And it doesn’t all have to be done in one day, or even one week. Schedule a little bit of time each day to reach out and make online connections. Try to attend at least two events per month. Set up a coffee meeting once a week. Once you begin to invest time into this process, you will be amazed by how many people you already know.

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