Networking: the Humanity in Vanity
I used to think people desired fame because of vanity. The truth is more human.
Networking is not a thing rich people do; or people who want to be rich; or people who want to be famous. Networking is what the fittest do who survive for many generations.
Have you ever looked into what your boss does ? I have.
I could never understand how people can derive value from simply their opinion and perspective. There had to be more I thought.
I study the CEOs, and everyone talks about how busy they are. Busy doing what ??? What does the CEO of Apple, Google, Netflix do?
- Provide uncommon insight ?
- Meet with people that know more than them
- Meet with people that need them to know more than them
That last one is the real answer. The leaders, the elites primary job is to know more than everyone else or at least demonstrate the ability to know more or maximize the position to know more than everyone else.
Here is the kicker. Most of them don’t know more; but they know where to find out what they don’t know and where is usually who.
The head of the UX department is someone who has experience doing what the UX department needs to master or someone who if given the time to figure out will.
The head of the engineering department is someone who has experience building what the engineering department needs to build or someone who if given the time will figure it out.
But what does that do with networking?
Leaders get paid to know relevant people for the job. To cultivate relationships that yield knowledge and consistency. Consistently knowing and providing the right information makes a leader effective.
This brings me to individual contributors like me. I get paid to spend my time doing what a leader has identified needs to get done. Often times, I am developing a stronger bond with my family, my team but rarely networking.
The path to leadership is jolting as an exceptional builder or doer. It is because one is selected for demonstrating the ability to know what to do if given the time to network.
I’m other words, a manager candidate is a valid candidate only if that candidate can network effectively with the people that will provide answers to the questions the team will ask.
News Flash: it has very few to do with what you know even though some managers end up trying to learn everything so they don’t need to network with anyone. You can do the job that way, it’s just incredibly difficult and rather unsustainable.
Networking is not vanity though and it’s not the path to fame, power, money and titles. All those things can come from it but in truth, networking is a skill to survivor.
A software engineer has a dying wife; what does he do? He takes her to the hospital nearby and hopes they can treat her. He follows referral after referrals until she dies.
The same woman married to the CEO of Apple. What does he do? He reaches out to clients of Apple that own hospitals because he has their personal number or is in a social club with them. He explains his wife’s ordeal and they tell him of a friend or a story they have heard that sounds familiar. They call a few friends and find the exact doctor that treated the other woman.
I know what you are thinking, this has nothing to do with networking. The CEO of Apple is just rich. Alright let’s repaint the same picture.
Jeff, an author writes a book that is read by the whole world. Everyone is moved and touched by him. Some even worship the feet he walks on. He is paid on par with the CEO of Apple, he is known by more people too. Jeff’s wife is in the same situation as the two people previously. It turns out, if Jeff took the opportunity to network and respond to the requests from people reaching out to him because of his writing, his situation would be similar to the CEO of Apple; however if he chose to be a recluse, his situation will be similar to the first. Granted, he will take her to the most expensive hospital in town and be able to fly over any doctor for treatment.
In the scenario being painted, there is a caveat; the solution, the cure is known only to that one doctor. The only way to know is through stories and network. Stories, the most basic elements of human need and creativity. Stories encapsulate humanity and so much of its defining characteristics.
The truth is, networking is not accessible only to the rich, famous and powerful. There are some real poor people with access to the President of the United States. I don’t know their names but I can guarantee it’s fact. Maybe they work in golf courses he visits or he serves them at restaurants or they run the same trails together. However they met, they both invested in each other. They made that precious resource count when they it enveloped them in moments of memories.
I write all these because I hate networking but in the same way I hated sales because I thought it was a slimy business reserved for the most depraved and callous among us, I am coming around to see it differently. Sales is helping people, it is connecting people’s problems to a solution that you know about. Networking is not a thing rich people do. It’s not away to be famous.
Networking simply is the art of seizing the opportunity to intentionally connect with people, humans on your part and sometimes out of your way in life. It might be the difference between finding answers to otherwise fatal problems or the reason you find out about that bombfulicious Lebanese restaurant.
We are human, if you can; find a job that will pay you to network either directly or indirectly as a part of being good at your job. Because there is no faster way to get ahead. To spend 8–10 hours a day being paid to network. There are more answers that you don’t know about found in more people you don’t know yet.
Get out there and treat people like an adventure worth discovering. Not an agenda to run through.