It Is Who You Know

My path has been very different than I imagined it would be.  I expected to climb slowly up the corporate ladder in IT and eventually manage a large team at a company like Google or Microsoft.  Living in Alabama, the chance of getting a job at a company like that is rare.  However, I have ended up with a company that I enjoy working for more than I would have with those other options.  Recently, Forbes released a list of the highest paying companies in the country.  The company I work for was at the top of that list…above Google, Microsoft, and many other common household company names.  How did I get here?  What were the choices that led to an amazing job and a great career?  I wish I could name the steps I took, and I wish even more that I could claim to have made many decision with the end in mind.  Honestly, many times I was in the right place at the right time.

I don’t care what people say.  Getting somewhere in the world today is about knowing people.  Our network is more important than just about any other aspect of us when it comes to our career.  I never intended to work with the government as a contractor until I had a friend go to work for a large contractor.  He was making good money, so my interest was peaked.  I eventually reached out to him for some support and he sent my resume to a couple of people who worked on the Air Force base where his office was located.  Within a few days, I am contacted by a person I knew who was a captain in the Air Force and by the father-in-law of a friend.  These people knew me.  More importantly, these people knew my personality and character.  I would like to say that my entry into contracting was purely due to my skills or aptitude, but that simply isn’t the case.  I also know that I am not alone.  It was normal for most people that I knew to work their way into jobs by networking with old friends or acquaintances.

Some people might think that this maneuvering in a career path based on a network is unfair.  Why?  Why have you not taken the time to prove yourself to people you have worked with in the past?  Why have you not made friendships and business relationships with people you are in contact with?  I do not see this as my problem.  You are responsible for making your way, and that often begins with building a strong network of people that you can rely on.  These people rely on you as well and you are always looking for an opportunity to help someone else because it will always pay dividends.  I am not advocating manipulation.  I am speaking about genuine support when it is needed.  I would also never advocate helping someone get a job that they do not deserve.  It is important that your network is made of people who know the real you and can best determine when to forward opportunities to you.

I am wondering what others think about this topic.  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.