Should You Use Your Connections to Get Ahead?

Photo courtesy of Tiare Scott

I recently had a conversation with one of my doctors in which he discussed the phenomenon of having the letters M.D. after his name. He expressed amazement at his ability to get the best seats at the opera, being shuffled to the front of the line at the DMV and getting his daughter an appointment with a busy specialist when no appointments were available for 6 months. We both wondered out loud whether or it was right for him to take advantage of his status as a medical doctor, and it really got me thinking. Should you use your connections to get ahead?

The old saying goes, “it’s not what you know; it’s who you know,” and the sentiment behind that saying used to be that if you knew the right people and used them to your advantage, you were most likely a jerk.

When I was younger, I agreed with that sentiment. I felt that if you were talented, intelligent and resourceful that you would eventually live the life you wanted based on your merits alone. Today I believe that using your connections wisely is a huge testament to precisely how talented, intelligent and resourceful you are.

What follows is a list of helpful ways to use who you know (and who they know) to get you closer to many of your goals and to make life more enjoyable along the way.

  •  Use your network only when necessary. If you tap your connections all the time, it will become clear that you cannot accomplish anything without their help.
  •  When you do ask your network of friends or professional connections for help, try to limit it to asking for information, phone numbers, submission   guidelines, or tips about who you can get in touch with to accomplish the goal at hand.
  •  Make sure that you follow through and actually use the information that you have been given.  Remember that the person you asked for information will most likely find out if you did nothing with the tips he gave you, and the next time you ask, he probably won’t be so forthcoming.
  •  Never forget to say thank you to anyone who does offer you help, whether it is in the form of a job interview, the phone number of a contractor who will work at half-price if you mention the name of your connection, or, in the case of my physician, better seats at the opera.  Send a thank you card if you think it would be appreciated, but make sure that your thanks are graciously given in some way.  People generally enjoy helping others – but only if they get something out of it too.  Usually, they feel pretty good about helping someone who is extremely grateful.
  •  Try to vary who you reach out to.  Repeatedly asking the same person or small group of people for favors is definitely going to get old quickly. If your network is small, make a point of growing your connections daily.  One great way to do that is through the use of social media networks.  Outside of the virtual world, go to the right social gatherings, and, if you’re invited to dinner with someone who might potentially be able to help you in the future, make every effort to show up.

Of course, using your connections in life will only get you so far, and the real work (putting those connections to use) has to be done by you, and you alone.  With that being said, networking, and the benefits that come from it if done correctly, can benefit you greatly.  The next time you need help with something that might be made easier by someone you know – remember this: the worst they can say is no.


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    • Yakezie

      It’s all about connections in life!

      • Adrienne McGuire

        Well, as I mentioned in the entry – it’s a good way to make certain things happen, but oftentimes it’s what you do with those connections and how well you can handle any success or opportunities they may bring.

    • Kickstart Your Change

      It also helps to be mindful of what you’re asking for, and whether it has any benefit for people in your network – or is truly just a favor. E.g., if I ask someone for a referral to a professional they trust, that might be very beneficial for them!

      • Adrienne McGuire

        True, true! Very good point. Sometimes, though, you’ll be asking for true favors, like a phone number to the right person that can possibly get you hired, etc.

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