Why Connections Sometimes Count More Than Skills

Is it better to develop your skills or your network? I've heard arguments from some people that only skills count today, while others believe that only your connections count. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

You need both skills and connections to succeed in your career. But the best news is that at the start of your career when your skills are less developed you can compensate by working very hard on your networking.

So why are connections so important? In theory everyone always chooses the best person for the job. Except that they don't. They can't. It's impossible because of our imperfect knowledge -- somewhere out there is the person we need but we don't know who it is. It's also impossible because if everyone went to the best person that person would be very busy and unavailable.

In reality when people say that they are choosing the best they often mean that they are choosing the best person from the pool of people that they know, or that their friends know. In other words they are looking for people in the intersection of the sets "people who can do the job" and "people I know". Your problem is simply to be in that intersection. You don't need to be the best at your job but you do need to be widely known to hear about interesting opportunities.

There's a way to visualize this concept. Imagine that you are a photographer living in a small town. There is only one other photographer in town. Now suppose that you spend every spare minute honing your skills and mastering new techniques until you are the best. Meanwhile your rival is hanging out at chamber of commerce mingling evenings, attending conferences, doing pro-bono work for charities and other opportunities for meeting people. Ms Rival is known to everyone in town. You are not. Who do you think the townspeople are going to call when they need a photographer?

In this situation if you start networking more effectively you have a chance of taking some of the business away from the rival, so connections will always trump skills provided that you are at least competent. This means that networking can be especially useful at the beginning of your career when perhaps your skills are not so polished, but simply being known gets you the work.

But what about the cases where a job is advertised and anyone can apply. You might think that connections are irrelevant in these situations but this is not true. Many jobs are not advertised and no advertising campaign can ever reach the entire population. This means that you are still reliant on your network to hear about unadvertised jobs and simply to see the ads for the ones that are advertised. There is no time when connections are meaningless.

More about professional networking

There's much more about professional networking in my book Payforward Networking, available in paperback and Kindle editions.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Andrew Hennigan provides lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about networking, influencing, speaking and other communication topics. To book a session email speaker@andrewhennigan.com or call 0046 730 894 475. You can also find out more at http://andrewhennigan.com

Related Posts about Networking

Networking Yourself into a New Career
Dealing with LinkedIn Requests from Strangers
Why Payforward Networking is More Effective than Tit-for-Tat
Three ways to be more confident at networking events
Why being a connector makes your networking more effective.
Why you should be networking even if you are not looking for a job
How Encouraging Networking Makes Your Workplace More Effective
How to Make Photos for Professional Profiles and CVs
Why Networking is About Building relationships
How to Use Twitter for Professional Networking
LinkedIn: Why Unanswered Messages are Wasted Opportunities
LinkedIn May Be Hacker's Dream Tool But Attacks Easy to Foil
Recruiters Not Only Check Social Media They Use Them to Identify People
How to Separate Work and Private Networking
Linkedin Etiquette: How to Approach People You Don't Know
Professional Networking: Five Sites You Should Be Using for Your Career
Three Keys to Networking
Selling Your Ideas: Influencing Your Way to Success


Popular posts from this blog

Dear Best Regards: How to Start and End Your Emails

Reverting to Emails: Confusion and the Indian English Language

TED’s Magical Red Carpet