Your Career and the People Around You
Sometimes, it takes more than confidence and a good track record to bag work. Just ask the applicant who was passed over for a job in favor of someone who knew the boss, or the businessman who lost a sale to the customer’s friend. That is the basic idea behind social capital: recognizing and harnessing the value of your social network.
Social capital is more than professional contacts. You build up this resource with every single person you meet, from the company CEOs to the owner of that bakery you always buy bread rolls from. There isn’t a single “true” standard for measuring it, but vague as the concept is, it will play an important role in your work life.
At the early stages of your career, your network is likely still small and undeveloped. It might not get you very far, but hopefully it will give you a head start. Impress your teacher and you’d get a glowing recommendation for any company you want. Reach out to the right person and you can get help setting up a business. It helps to have someone vouching for you right off the bat. Otherwise, you’re going to have a tougher time convincing prospective employers that you have both skill and potential.
Career paths rarely, if ever, go on a straight line. You will be faced with a lot of problems and have to make a lot of tough decisions. Whether it’s climbing the corporate ladder or shifting careers, sometimes, you’re going to need to ask for help. At this point, it’s important to note that bridge-burning is rarely a good thing. Sooner or later, you may have to work together again with the colleagues you have now, and it’s easier to do that without bad blood getting in the way. Don’t make things harder for you by leaving behind a trail of people who’d rather not have anything to do with you ever again.
Having contacts is one thing; getting good value from them is another. Late in your career, you’d find opportunities in the most unexpected places. Someone you helped years ago may suddenly turn up and repay the favor a hundredfold. Someone you’ve only met in passing may end up your business’ biggest client. But you’ll never know if you don’t know how to recognize the potential value your interactions with other people may have. The trick is keeping your mind open to possibilities lurking around the corner courtesy of social capital you’ve built along the way.
No one ever became successful all on his own. Being great at what you choose to do is just half of the challenge; building and capitalizing on your network is the rest. After all, it’s not just all about you; it’s about the people you know, too. Connection. Connection. Connection.