“Our careers aren’t paths so much as landscapes that are navigated. We’re free agents, entrepreneurs, and intrapraneurs - each with our own unique brand.” - Keith Ferazzi, Never Eat Alone
The power of a connection is, well, powerful. More powerful than can be immediately measured with fancy ROI analytics. And in today’s world of short-term loyalty, both on the side of employees and employers, connections are the most important things to both life and career.
It’ll be no surprise to you when I say that gone our the days of working 40 years for a pension. There are simply too many options: in the form of both innovative companies and skilled talent. With options comes opportunities, and there are more opportunities than ever to become successful. The question is, how can we turn these options into success stories?
The keys are connections. Connections both uncover options previously unknown to us as well as turn current options into opportunities.
Connections multiply our options, but what are they anyway? I wrote previously on the importance of weak connections and strong connections, but generally, a connection is any person whom you can have a stimulating conversation with. A person who forces you to grow in some aspect of your life, either physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
Connections are integral to leveraging options because people have unique strengths - often times strengths that we may not. Connecting with people forces us to think outside the box, step outside of your comfort zone, or modify our worldview. And in a world of options, it’s this personal expansion of skills, abilities, and thinking that will allow us to turn options into opportunities.
In the ever-changing landscape of business and life, it’s up to us to take control. Relying on someone else to make things happen is no strategy at all. By doing this, we effectively limit our options to one. We have to ensure that we’re constantly multiplying our options by consistently connecting.
It’s probable that we will rely on one person or option in particular to get us that interview, win us that meeting, or give us that sage advice - but when your connections are limitless, so too are your options. When we focus on expanding our networks we end up relying on the overall strength of our interwoven connections, rather than on one person alone.
In essence, by growing your network, you are relying on a single person, but that single person is you.
“Too often, we get caught up efficiently doing ineffective things, focusing solely on the work that will get us through the day. The aim isn’t to find oneself another environment tomorrow - be it a new job or a new economy - but to be constantly creating the environment and community you want for yourself, no matter what may occur.”
Stat multiplying your options today. Research people who you would benefit from meeting. They will most likely be industry professionals, but not always so. Anyone who thinks positive, has passion, and a desire to succeed would most definitely benefit you. Commit yourself to meeting two positive people a month (or more!). Commit yourself to maintaining relationships with the people you meet. Don’t overtax the connection by being too vocal or needy, but try to consistently be a value adder.
The key here is value for value. Ensure that you can reciprocate the value you’ll receive from a new connection. Don’t think you can? Try! Reaching out with an article or topic that directly pertains to this person shows that you care about providing them with value.
Linkedin is a great medium to both find these topics as well as source a connection. In my experience, everyone accepts Linkedin connections, whether they’re a college student or a fortune 500 CEO. Once you’ve sourced a connection, either by Linkedin, initial email, speaking engagement, or all of the above, focus on getting face-to-face time. Emails are nice, but I guarantee no one will forget that beautiful face of yours. Make sure you’re both adding value and memorable, so when the time comes to rely on a connection, they’ll be happy to help.
Constantly putting yourself out there can be scary, but as Keith Ferazzi reminds us:
"The choice isn’t between success and failure; it’s between choosing risk and striving for greatness, or risking nothing and being certain of mediocrity."