“It’s not what you know but who you know.” We all know this saying, and we all realize how important networking is to getting a job, changing careers and even being more successful in our current jobs. With few exceptions, my fellow alums from thirty years ago credit much of their success to relationships they have built and nurtured throughout their careers.
For those soon to launch careers with a degree in hand, what is the best way to build a strong network? A common practice is to target influential people in one’s industry, and try to connect with them with the thought of “what can this person do for me?” A better idea is to turn this approach on its head. In his groundbreaking book, “Give and Take,” Adam Grant presents compelling evidence that “givers,” or those who approach life attempting to help others succeed, in the end benefit far more than either “takers” or “matchers.” He points out, and backs up his claim with data, that the best networkers in fact do not think about how they will benefit from assisting others.
Further, one of the most powerful areas of Grant’s teaching is in the realm of reconnecting—something I have had the pleasure of doing with my “GSB” colleagues as I have become reconnected to Booth, as it is now known, over the past couple of years. Reaching out to old classmates, some of whom I had not seen since graduation, has led to the rebuilding of a branch of my network and to opportunities I had not anticipated.
Grant notes that “dormant ties are the neglected value in our networks, and givers have a distinctive edge over takers and matchers in unlocking this value.” He goes further, quoting research from Daniel Levin and colleagues, asserting that, “reconnecting a dormant relationship is not like starting a relationship from scratch. When people reconnect, they still have feelings of trust.“
So, here is some advice: build authentic relationships with your classmates. See what you can do for others without worrying about what’s in it for you. UChicago is a powerful institution, and you are part of a worldwide community of brilliant, committed individuals. The ties you build now can be reopened in a heartbeat if they were built on trust. (Judy Maley, MBA ’84)