It's not what you know…

Jeff Morosoff, Assistant Professor, Hofstra University

They (whoever they are) say that it’s not what you know but who you know.  I (your author) say that it’s what you AND who you know.  Both, with rare exception, go hand-in-hand with professional success.

You cannot hear it–or practice it–too often.  The more you network, the more opportunities you create for yourself.  What gets overlooked sometimes is WHERE you should be networking.  Generally, we think of networking as something we do at a planned event: we go to a conference or a workshop held by a professional organization or we attend an event designed for the sole purpose of networking.  But many professionals and students fail to realize that networking happens everywhere.  Whether you’re in a classroom, at a social event, in a lecture hall or during an internship, one should always be networking… making introductions, saving contact information and forming relationships.

My personal experience with networking is a tribute to its effectiveness.  I got my first job through a former classmate, made several subsequent career moves through the professional contacts I had made, found a lot of freelance work through associates in the professional PR organization in which I’d become active, and continue to help myself and others by enhancing relationships through social and face-to-face networking.  Networking has given me countless opportunities, lifelong professional relationships, and–best of all–friendships.

Of course, you have to back up who you know with what you know.  Your on-the-job performance is paramount to creating a professional reputation.  And it means that your reputation will spread as your network grows.  So whatever your current or planned profession, write down every name, follow-up with every contact and actively pursue avenues where you can network.  It makes a huge and very positive difference in a career.  Your thoughts?

7 thoughts on “It's not what you know…

  1. jmorosoff Post author

    Thank you for all of your thoughful comments. I appreciate your appreciation of the importance of networking. If you put it into practice every day, it will make a huge difference in your career.

  2. Maria Rivera

    AMEN! I completely agree with this, Prof. Morosoff. Many people think that ‘who you know’ is more important that ‘what you know,’ but the truth is, both are extremely important. Success can’t be obtained solely based on the people we know; sure, being able to network may get you a job, or an internship opportunity, but is your knowledge and hard work that will allow you to preserve that job.
    In order to remain competitive in this field, one must possess an insatiable thirst for knowledge; for ‘wanting to know’ what is going on around us. Public relations professionals must engage in a never-ending learning process or else, risk becoming unaware and ignorant; which in this industry would surely lead to failure.

  3. Yasmeen Saleh

    I agree 110%. This post reminds me of the suggestion that you can get by 15 minutes with who you know/your looks but after that you personally really have to know something regarding the situation your in. Whether it being a networking event, discussions, interviews, etc.

  4. Amanda

    No matter your definition of success, the adage “its not what you know, it is who you know” always rings true. Often success requires the help of other people and it is paramount to have good networking skills. I too got my first job through a friend and know many people who have done the same.
    Thankfully we now have more networking opportunities through social media. It is in the best interest of anyone looking for a job to utilize the contact that can be made through social media and be active on these sites. Even thought the manner in which we network is changing, the bottom line remains the same.

  5. Kaitlin Simensky

    I absolutely agree that when it comes to the business world, it is who you know, but also just as importantly, what you know. Who you know gets your foot in the door; however, it’s what you know that keeps you there or moves you forward.

    It is important to have both general knowledge as well as specific knowledge, which varies depending on the individual you are trying to network with. Having general knowledge allows one to have intelligent and interesting conversations with individuals that one would potentially want to work with.

    Having general knowledge is important because while you are networking your personal knowledge and ability to eloquently express ideas can go along way in making positive first impressions and create the groundwork for relationships based on common interests. Moreover, it is also important to have specific knowledge pertaining to the individuals’ business. For instance, if one is trying to network with a manager at an advertising agency it is important to know some specific things about that agency and the work they do. Having this type of knowledge demonstrates to a potential colleague that you are an intelligent and involved business individual.

    In many ways the “who you know” can be greatly dependent on “what you know,” because if you meet someone that you would potentially like to network with you have to demonstrate the “what you know” if you have any chance of being successful in that particular situation. Even in situations when through personal connections you are presented with opportunities of meeting important colleagues in your field, if you are unable to demonstrate the “what you know,” that first meeting will likely be your last.

  6. Rachel Tallon

    I have found that with both of my jobs, I am constantly networking and building relationships. I have definitely found classmates of mine that have helped me but I have also gone out of my way to make myself noticed amongst the right people. I have always been told, its not what you know, its who you know. Unfortunately, in many cases, I have seen people rise up the ladder who may not have necessarily been the right person for the job but it was because of who they know, however that number is slim, I truly believe that no matter who you know, you have to be able to back it up. Truthfully, from my personal experience, I have built my relationships by proving myself and in return have found new contacts. The relationships I have now at my internship I know will continue through my career.

    The best advice is to keep a list of all your contacts, but also when you mentioned reputation. The only way to get my relationships with others to grow is with my reputation. Reputation is KEY. Great advice, it is something I will carry with me throughout my career.

  7. Phil Hecken

    Excellent advice. One could argue that who you know is even more important than what you know, as this is exemplified in both the public from POTUS down to Town Council, and private, from CEO down to shift worker. Rare is the occasion where mere talent, skill or ambition alone is enough, although without these attributes, the Peter Principle often is observed much more quickly.

    To use a cliche or two, be nice to those you meet on your way up, as these will be the same people you will see on your way down, cultivate your contacts, and as Dale Carnegie would remind us, never forget a birthday or fail to remember that a “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”


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