The biggest fallacy in business: if I work hard I’ll eventually get to where I want to be.
While hard work and a myriad of other competency-based characteristics are certainly important in growing ones career, they play second fiddle to the #1 most important thing that drives our careers.
Recently I found myself engaged in a discussion I hear all too often:
“I’ve been trying to land a job doing (insert job title) but I’m not getting any responses from my job applications online.”
This was coupled with:
“I’m trying to break into (insert industry) but I have no direct industry experience and am having a hard time with people taking my capabilities serious without industry experience.”
Both of these situations and the people involved are experiencing the same thing – they haven’t built or leaned on the appropriate people to help them with their career quest.
Enter in the #1 career advancement driver: RELATIONSHIPS
The people which make up your professional ecosystem are ultimately the ones who will make the difference in your career, not just hard work.
Back to our scenario above. Applying to jobs on the internet, or the black hole of death as I commonly refer to it, does have its merits, yet by no means are online job boards the best place to land your dream job. Online job boards are built to do one thing and one thing well – weed people like you out. According to Robert Meier, President of Job Market Experts, only 2% of candidates applying for jobs online actually get an interview.
My personal experiences have shown that many people find the online job board process frustrating, cumbersome and verging on a galactic time suck.
If we can’t rely on online job boards, what options do we have? Enter back to the stage our good ole friend ‘Relationships’, our #1 suitor for career advancement.
Your education, hard work and perhaps charm will only take you so far. Relationships, the people above you, below you and your peers, are the ones that stand to make the biggest impact in your career. When we are in school, soon to graduate and looking for our first opportunity, it’s people that give us the chance, not necessarily our stellar academic performance. Our grades may assist in getting us to the conversation however the driver behind making the decision is someone who wants to give you a shot.
Same can be said in corporate America. I remember the first time I was going for a management promotion. My boss at the time told me, “it’s not the people above you that will promote you, it’s your peers and people who report to you.” That really struck home because if my boss were to ask my peers and employees what they thought of me and the response he got was less than stellar the likelihood that feedback would impact my forward progress in my career is likely to be substantial.
When you’re neck deep in your career often times it’s who you know, not what you know. The ‘who you know’ opens doors, ‘what you know’ helps you facilitate the work at hand, not landing the job itself.
What many professionals miss out on is the importance of building lasting professional relationships.
Not every relationship has the capacity to turn into something that is special and will impact your career however if carefully practiced and made a priority it is certainly possible several of your professional relationships overtime can produce fruitful results for both parties involved.
Why is it then people don’t spend more time and energy in building their ecosystem of professional relationships?
Answer: because it isn’t easy nor is it quick in producing results.
Relationships take time and investment. The best relationships have a ‘pay-it-forward’ mentality where both people see the bigger opportunity to help one another without quid pro quo. If you’ve ever read the book ‘Go Giver’ by Bob Burg, it also happens to be my favorite all time book on life and business, you know that relationships and the power of doing for others often times sets the stage for incredible life experience to come. This of course is true in business.
Relationships are hard to foster over long periods of time. It takes trust, consistency and energy. Yet when done genuinely relationships have the power to open doors that may not have been available without it.
If you’re read this and feel like it’s time for you to step up and grow your ecosystem of professional relationships follow these steps to get on the glory road of professional relationships.
1. Understand what your WHY is for building relationships? (most importantly, what can you offer to others in the process?)
2. Identify 2-3 professionals within your circle of influence, take each of them out to coffee for the purpose of building a better, tighter and more collaborative relationship
3. Go to industry networking events
4. Rinse and repeat (a couple in-person meetings or events is only the start; build into your schedule 2-3 times a month where you make it a priority to meet with people)
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.