It’s Not WHAT You Know, It’s WHO You Know

By: Eric Oziel
Posted on: June 27, 2016

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

This is one of the most truthful sentences in today’s working world. I can promise you this from only a few years of work experience.

Raise your hand if you know of anyone who has been hired for a job because of a “hook-up”, a “connection” or any other internal reference? Okay that was rhetorical…at this point please lower all hands!

What can a professional network do for you?

The value of a professional network cannot be overstated. I was recently involved in a flurry of interviews for a handful of employers while looking to make a career move. Five reputable firms interviewed me, and of the five I had a “hook-up” to four of them. The first was a friend of mine from university who passed my resume onto HR at her company. The second was a former coworker who reached out via LinkedIn to refer me to a role. The third I found on my own, but through a little digging I found a few people who knew the hiring managers to put in a good word for me. The fourth came from an unplanned encounter as I ran into someone with whom I had done a training course with over a year ago, who happened to be the hiring manager for a job posted online. And the fifth was found via recruiting agency.

Why was I was seen as a top candidate for these positions? Because I had connections. Because I knew people who could vouch for me and boost my profile. Out of all of the resumes in the stack, mine already had a stamp of approval. And if you read through this article, you can end up getting yourself a stamp of approval as well.

Why is this becoming so important?

For starters, the world is getting smaller. No, planet Earth is not shrinking, but our industries are becoming more interconnected- some more so than others. With quicker employee turnover and shorter stints in roles, people switching companies are growing their networks which ultimately expands yours at the same time. Additionally, organizations are commonly incorporating an employee referral program, rewarding employees for referring successful candidates. This means that people are willing and motivated to find professional contacts to fill their company’s open roles.

Keys to Success

Below are my three key points to setting yourself up for success from a professional networking perspective- and none of them involve suiting up to attend a local young professionals networking event!

1) Do good work.

After all, this is what people will be judging first. If you don’t do good work, even if people like you they wouldn’t want to hire you! Once you secure your first job out of school, your work experience, projects you’ve worked on, and career achievements take over from your education in terms of what you’ll be asked about. But in order to talk about these things you might need that connection to get you an initial interview in the first place!

2) Keep in touch with your networks.

You can hypothesize which of the individuals in your networks will be most valuable to you based on their status in the industry in which you work or to which you are looking to move. Let professional contacts know that you value your relationship, even if you haven’t had direct interaction with them in a while. When notifications come up on LinkedIn like someone having a work anniversary or getting a new job, reach out to them to say congratulations, or simply “like” their post. Send a personalized message wishing them well over the holiday season. Little personal niceties can go a long way.

3) Never burn bridges!

Many of us have had that dream of going out in a blaze-of-glory, either insulting your former company, telling coworkers how you really feel about their quirks, or going on a tirade about your terrible boss. NEVER DO THIS! Your former peers will likely one day be at an organization for which you’d like to work, and they might be your connection to it. Be pleasant to colleagues, be somebody that people want to work with, and be classy when you leave. But do not give a reason for peers not to refer you when you go looking for a job hook-up.


Understand these steps and you’ll quickly see the value of your professional network. Mine just got me a new job, what can yours do for you?

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