It seems that us millennials are in the prime sponsorship and mentorship era. Not only do we feel tasked to land a stable, relevant, and well-paying job that fulfills our passion and purpose; it appears that we need to discover a well-established mentor or sponsor in order to do so.
More than ever, establishing an influential network is perceived to be the key driver to success. Adequate amount of time is spent establishing high power relationships and attending elite events with the goal of obtaining insider information. We’ve been taught at an early age that it’s about who you know not what you know and have witnessed people (or even ourselves) go through grave lengths believing this philosophy to be true.
Interrupting industry panel discussions to pitch unwarranted ideas, standing on long lines to grab a selfie with a big name, or even sneaking into VIP to deliver business cards has become all too frequent and a part of the industry norm. Yet, despite the feelings of anguish that is often associated with making these professional connections, so many of us believe that this is our only option to climb the ladder of success. We become so infatuated with building relationships with influential individuals, that we overlook the three other factors that make people successful: talent, time and hard work.
According to neurologist Daniel Levitin, it takes roughly 10,000 hours to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert at anything. “It takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery,” Levitin states in Outliers. So, unless you plan on being a professional networker, being a social butterfly is not going to automatically make you an expert within your respective field. That is where knowledge and practical experience comes in.
Sure, networking plays a significant role throughout your career; many professionals would agree that establishing some sort of influential relationship could lead to new business opportunities. LinkedIn reports that 70% of people in 2016 were hired at a company where they had a connection and even more believes networking to be important in their career success. However, how relevant are these connections when we are eventually tasked to perform and achieve outstanding work? As Myleik Teele, founder and CEO of Curl Box states, “Being in the presence of someone great or even being friends with someone great, is not going to make you great.”
Our talent, experience, and achievements can not only take our career to the next level, but also attract and sustain the very network we long to connect with. The best way to interest a mentor, sponsor or future employer is by accomplishing something worthy enough for their attention. Instead of spending inordinate amount of energy passing out meaningless business cards or going on coffee dates, use the time to enroll in relevant courses, pass industry certifications, or build a project of your own. Begin to let your achievements do the talking. In doing so, you’ll find that scoring the job you want will be more satisfying and worthwhile for everyone involved.