Is Who You Know More Important Than What You Know?

Throughout our lives why was there such a tremendous emphasis put on learning, rather than on building connections and your network? According to LinkedIn, over 80% of job seekers identify their next opportunity through networking efforts.  Who you know might be just as important if not more important, than what you know, to advance in your career.

execunetselect-shaking-hands-diverse-groupIt is your skills, experience, and knowledge that initially qualify you, so I don’t want to downplay the importance of what you know. In fact, if you did not know answers to relevant questions asked during an interview, that could cause you to be screened out. However, you may not have had a chance to interview in the first place if you did not know someone. In many instances when you know someone, they don’t put as much emphasis on your education, skills, or experience.

According to LinkedIn, over 80% of job seekers identify their next opportunity through networking efforts.

When you are referred by someone in your network there is an inferred level of trust. I compare networking often to dating. If you met a stranger at an event who asked you out to dinner, you might hesitate because you have no information about this person. However, if your business associate introduced you to a person, they have known their entire life, an invitation to dinner would more than likely be accepted. Your response is heavily impacted by your trust of the person who introduced you. That is why who you know is so critical in career advancement.

You never want the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” to describe you. Take time to identify the leaders, the high achievers, and the influencers who should know what you have to offer. Networking can be intimidating because it is essentially a sales process, but if you don’t sell your abilities, who will? Proactively make things happen in your career, do not wait for something to happen or someone else to recommend you.

Networking is a sales process and selling yourself to others is not always easy. However, the more you realize how you can benefit others, the more comfortable you become telling your story. You also realize that the lifetime relationships you build will help not only you but the people in your network.

Employee referrals are especially beneficial, whether this is a person who works for your current employer, or another company. If a well-respected internal employee recommends you for an opportunity, you have a great advantage over other candidates being considered. In a study published by Mike Stafiej, CEO of ERIN on LinkedIn, January 13, 2020, the following Employee Referral Statistics were shared:

  • Employee referrals are 4x more likely to be hired.
  • 82% of employees rated employee referrals above all other sourcing options to yield the best ROI.
  • $7,500 per hired employee referral is the amount saved in productivity and sourcing costs.
  • 60 days was the average to fill a position without a referral, employee referrals averaged 35-40 days.

How many times in your past were you told you were the perfect person for a job, only to find out a friend of the hiring manager was hired? Networking helps you become the person with the advantage because of who you know, and what introductions are made, or doors are opened on your behalf.

The foundation of networking is to build relationships while you are contributing to your network. It’s important to learn about people in your network so you build quality contacts vs. being focused on the numbers of contacts or followers.  Most people love to talk about themselves and great advice is often shared during informal discussions. When you genuinely care about another person’s interest, they are more likely to open their contacts and refer you.

Your initial contacts can be made online, possibly in a LinkedIn Group, but then the conversation must be taken offline to make a real connection and share how you can also benefit this person.

Throughout your career form lifetime relationships with everyone in your professional and personal networks. Someone does not have to be in your industry or profession to know people who could help you advance. It is wise to review your network to make sure you have representation from the following groups:

Challengers: People who cause you to look at your own direction. They force you to face important questions about your life. This is often someone who is not in your profession and is extremely objective in the advice they provide.

Experts: People in your field you respect and value as a professional contact. You respect the professional competence of these people. They are often individuals who are involved in the professional associations who represent your profession or are quoted as experts in various publications.

Hubs: These are well connected people who can provide you with sources of information and people. Think of the person you know who seems to know everyone. This is the type of person you want in your network.

Mentors: People who will help you guide your career, provide you with access to their expertise and will teach you what they know. Mentors can also be your peers or even someone you supervise who provide you with insight.

Promoters: These are people who will take an active role in helping you. They will also advise you of opportunities and enhance your visibility. This can be someone in your company or an external person who wants to help you advance in your career.

Role Models: They have achieved what you aspire. They are examples to emulate and will often share their story and contacts if, they understand your career goals.

After reviewing these groups, where did you discover your network is lacking? Make a conscious effort to identify the type of person you want to target for your network, since you now understand the importance of who you know, and who knows you!



Barbara Bruno

Barbara Bruno

Barbara Bruno, author of HIGH-TECH HIGH-TOUCH RECRUITING: How To Attract And Retain The Best Talent By Improving The Candidate Experience, is an internationally recognized recruiting expert who has a proven track record of helping recruiters and talent acquisition professionals become more successful and less stressed. She has created several popular LinkedIn Learning courses and is president of Good As Gold Training, HR Search, Inc., and Happy Candidates.

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