Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"I know a guy..."

A few months back, my boss asked me if I could help him get a baseball cap embroidered with our company logo for a presentation he was doing.

“Sure,” I said. “I know a guy.”

My boss chuckled a bit and said “You sound like you’re from Rhode Island” (that’s where he’s from.)

I’m not from Rhode Island, but another industrial state – Michigan. However, I don’t think it’s growing up in the rust belt that developed my “I know a guy” attitude. I think it’s being a Gen Xer.

Gen Xers are great network builders. I’m not talking about teams, but networks. We don’t always want to work in groups (of which I think Millennials have really mastered the art of.) But we have developed intensely loyal networks that really are responsible for our biggest successes.

Obviously, everyone writes about networking these days. Building your tribe. Yada yada. I’m not trying to shed light on a brilliant new discovery. However, I’ve just noticed that while there’s so much hype about unemployment, I seem to be surrounded by a whole bunch of successful Xers who got that way by depending on no-one but themselves and their network. Not the government. Not their companies.

So I thought I’d put together some of my thoughts on the issue.

1. The reason you want to have a network is to avoid the douches out there. Kind of like the no assholes rule. It’s hard to work with a douche. And there sure are a lot of them.

2. The other reason you want to have a network is so you can be of service to others who know YOU are not a douche.

3. Your network does not need to be made up of your best friends. You don’t have to be on a bowling team with your network (although my husband has had quite a bit of luck with this tactic.) You do need a network of people who are relatively smart, relatively talented, also connected to other non-douches, willing to help you out, and who you are willing to help out.

4. You need to be loyal to your network. For instance, I work in marketing. I try to stick with the same vendors when at all possible. This is very helpful when you screw up and they help save your butt. They are willing to do this, because you have consistently sent them business.

5. You need to recommend those in your network to each other – and use your network to vet new people for your network. The hat guy I “knew” was someone I met through my network. This time was a small job. But business is a long-term thing. He helped me make a rockin’ cool hat that my boss loved. I won’t forget it.

So keep that in mind the next time you are at a networking event. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. Or the richest. Or even the most successful. You just don’t want to be the douche.


Anonymous said...

too true. too true. i've gotten almost every job through networking. it's who you know. you may have made it to the 8th grader, or have two masters. still, it's usually who you know.


Kristina said...

My favorite rule is number four. There are times I've been loyal and helpful to someone in my network, only to have that someone repeatedly ignore me or let me down when I'm the one who needs a hand. Snip! Out of my network.

KateNonymous said...

These are great points. I have a network because it's reliable--from my perspective--in a way that a company isn't. And I agree that loyalty is crucial.

I would say that my network is not drawn from my friends. But some members of my network have become friends--even if we have yet to meet in person.

Anonymous said...

I love your article - it's sooo true - I lived it in the corporate world and now that I'm self-employed I'm building a second network.

I will say that my networks are always composed of non-family people. I have gotten better performance from strangers and/or non-family people than depending on family in all cases.