Build or burn?

A hard lesson in the value of networking

After failing to land a job that was designed with me in mind, I was moaning about it to my brother-in-law when he asked, ‘You’re not one of these idiots who thinks doing a good job is good enough, are you?’  At that moment I finally learned the usefulness of networking.  It was a hard lesson but, in my case, it needed to be.

I was indeed someone who had always prioritised doing a good job, treating all other aspects of career-building as secondary.  I took pride in my attitude.  When I heard the word ‘networking’ what I thought was ‘brown-nosing’.  When I saw others big up their achievements I thought, ‘They’ll get found out’.  While they were making a loud noise about modest achievements, I was working hard on more substantial achievements.  I developed good working relationships with people I worked with but passed up opportunities to socialise with other colleagues.  If too busy, I pulled myself out of committees or sent deputies.  My career strategy was that hard work and a reputation for getting things done would be noticed and rewarded.  I carried on in this way this through my twenties and well into my thirties.  Until that moment with my brother-in-law, I had never heard it being described as idiotic before.

It was at that moment, around the family dinner table, that I realised the reasons why I hadn’t got the job ran career-deep.  It was an internal job.  Whatever I said at the actual interview was just the latest contribution in over 10 years of actions that went before.  I should have got that job.  That I didn’t was no one’s fault but my own.

What I learned in that moment was that my attitude was, essentially, childish.  Time spent building relationships with people you might not directly work with is an investment in getting things done in the future.  How you get the job done is just as important as getting the job done.  How you function within a large organisation will be ‘noticed’, and nurturing your network will be rewarded.  Had I realised the consequences of my actions would be that, 10 years later, I might not get a job I really wanted, I would have changed my behaviour.  It took a hard set-back, and some good feedback, for me to learn the lesson well.  It stung.

Anyone in sales learns this lesson in their first week.  It will also be no surprise to anyone self-employed.  No one has the resources to go all the way on their own.  We all need a little help.  A good network of relationships provides that help.  It’s a hygiene factor.  Its presence won’t lead to success, but it’s absence will certainly lead to failure.

View all blog articles