I’m walking past one of the rooms at the Just Digital People (JDP) mothership when I see an unfamiliar face.
“Hey there, how’re ya doing? I’m Josh.” I introduce myself.
Our visitor (let’s call him Mark) is in his forties, and he looks nervous. There’s nothing to be nervous about at JDP. We exist to empower and enable the people we work with in their career. I chat with Mark for a while to get a sense of what he’s up to and how I might add value to him, and also to set him at ease.
Mark recently had a near-death experience. He was in a head-on collision that nearly took his life. He’s been out of work for a number of months. As we talk, I get a sense of how this collision has changed his perspective. It’s sharpened his focus, given him an edge and a sense of urgency.
I ask Mark how he heard about JDP. He says:
“One of the guys who used to work for me got a job through you guys, and he referred me here.”
Mark’s a professional service centre manager. He’s here to talk with Reece, the Just People Information Security Consultant, about opportunities in that space.
Later in the day, I’m talking on the phone with someone who currently tutors in IT (let’s call her Kate). Kate is mildly interested in looking for a new role. She’s not ready to do anything just yet, but she wants to explore her career options. In the conversation I discover that she has 25 students in her class that she teaches.
I’m intrigued: who are these students? Is there some way that we can work together to help them to advance or even to start their careers?
Kate doesn’t want to talk about them:
“That’s enough about them. Let’s talk about me.”
Literally those words.
Here’s the thing: maybe you’re not ready to do something right now. But what happens if you help twenty-five people to find work, make the right connections, kickstart their careers? What happens when it’s your turn to move on to something else?
Well, you’d have – like Mark – people who have made new connections who can reach out through those connections to find opportunities for you. In Kate’s case she is siting on a gold mine. Twenty-five people out there in the world moving onwards and upwards, with her number in their cellphone and happy to return the favour that she gave them in getting them started.
Other people’s interest is your extended self-interest. When you focus only on your own immediate self-interest, your circle of influence contracts. Jase alluded to this in his article “Watch your back – it all goes around“. It costs nothing to return a call, to refer someone else to an opportunity, or to connect two people in your network. And it’s something that they will remember – especially if it eventuates into something for them.
Building a network is more like farming than it is like hunting. You sow seeds, and some sprout and some don’t. You water and it looks like you get nothing for your efforts. Contrast that with hunting: where you go out with a specific, narrow goal in mind, and if you don’t come home with a result that day, it’s a failure.
But consider this: agrarian civilisations – those that mastered the art of cultivating crops and the deferred rewards it brings – rule the world. Not those who stayed with hunting. There is disproportionate power in the cultivation approach.
Next time you’re in a conversation: think about how you can add value to someone you know by connecting them to the person you are talking to; or how you can add value to the person you are talking to by connecting them with someone you know.
And when you feel the “what’s in it for me?” kick in – just get that it’s there. Hunting is part of our history and we have biological wiring for it. However, staying at that level of operation is one of the major factors limiting your career, and your income, to what it is now.