The one piece of career advice I always tell young people is this: You can be spectacularly brilliant but a miserable failure if you don’t put as much energy into your people skills as you do into your actual expertise.
The world revolves around relationships. You need to know how to network and leverage your network. You need to know how to assess the culture of your office environment and find a way to fit in without being high maintenance.
There is a cliché, “It’s not what you know but who,” and there is a reason it is a cliché. It’s true.
People will drive your success more than the results you can deliver. You need to know the right people, but you need to know them in a way that makes them want to help you. Fortunately, this is pretty easy.
I have seen many people make the mistake of assuming that networking is a matter of shaking hands, swapping business cards and following up with appropriate e-mails. You do all of that, but make sure the exchange sparks something personal and memorable. It is far more important that you know that the person has to be home on Thursday night for Grey’s Anatomy or that they have an overweight Dacshund than it is to recite their title. Relationships are all about friendships. Make friends in high places.
You do that by consciously working on growing your exposure. When there are events that expose you to people who can influence your growth, show up. And, don’t just stand there. Work the room.
I know it is hard to talk to strangers, but it is much easier if you come prepared with a few subjects to talk about and a few questions you can ask.
Know something about the people you need to meet so you have someplace to go with your conversation. You always have a conversation entry point when you know that the person is from your hometown or went to your school or likes to surf or is an avid knitter or any other detail that will get the person to talk.
You do not have to focus your conversation on work, but you should be able – in thirty seconds – to summarize what you are doing and where you are heading. If it is going well and isn’t too much of a violation of chain of command, ask to have coffee or lunch, whatever. Just make sure you leave with contact information and tell the person you would like to stay in touch. Then, STAY IN TOUCH. You don’t have to be the person’s pen-pal, but you can forward interesting articles or just send a quick note once a month to stay on the radar.
The point is, your brain gets you your job and keeps you in the game. Your personality advances you. There will certainly be exceptions to this rule, but think of how much more you can do if you don’t count on an exception. Just be exceptionably personable.
Bestselling Oprah author Fawn Germer is defined by her hard won wisdom. To check availability for motivational speaking keynotes or workshops, or for information on life and executive coaching sessions, call (727) 467-0202 or firstname.lastname@example.org.