Everyone knows the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Being able to give someone a call, or more likely send them a text, and have them respond is a powerful thing. Said another way, people who receive responses to questions or requests have a leg up on those who don’t.
Recently, my father added a twist to this old saw. He told me that one of his most successful friends would change the adage to, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” When he said this, it took me a moment to really understand his friend’s insight.
“Who knows you” could be up, down or across a network. Across the network implies that your friends and colleagues can get in touch with you. More importantly, they can expect a response from you. Dale Carnegie is credited with saying, “To be interesting, be interested.” You are only valuable as a node in your network if you stay in touch.
Down the network is the degree to which you are willing to spend time helping people who can’t help you in equal measure. When someone is junior or younger to you, how do you respond? From personal experience, I expect the reactions vary. I’ve had my own eye-roll moments (which I often regret) to a true willingness to fully engage.
Up the network is the trick. The question is, “To what degree are senior or highly influential people paying attention to you?” When stronger people pay attention to what you think or say, you have power outside of and beyond your position.
At your job, there is evidence “up network” power exists when your boss’s boss listens to you in meetings or gives you special assignments. In the social media world, up network power exists when influencers share, like, retweet, repost, etc. content you created.
In this respect, social media changes just about everything with respect to networking. You no longer have to know someone to have a connection of sorts with them. The size of your grandfather’s age-old Rolodex has been replaced with your teenager’s score on Social Mention and Empire.Kred. So “who knows you” in the social media world becomes “who pays attention to you.” Surprising things happen on these sites (example one and example two).
What social media doesn’t change about networking is the need to work hard at it. There is no substitute for consciously trying to build professional relationships. Another adage, this one attributed to George Bernard Shaw: “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Interpreted nearly 70 years after his death, Mr. Shaw’s words mean that even if you post regularly on Facebook and other sites, if no one sees your content, or finds your content uninteresting (certainly a risk of this post!), then your posts are in vain.
What’s the takeaway? Have something to say. Be credible when you say it. Do things that catch attention. Politely ask people to listen to you.
KSU’s College of Continuing and Professional Education is firmly committed to helping people create this content. “I Did It” is our tagline for a reason. We give individuals opportunities to engage in career-developing and life-changing educational programs. We create platforms for success. We hope that each and every one of our graduates proclaims that they are ready for what is next.