Network. It Really Is Who You Know

Greatly increase your chances of getting what you want.

Photo by rawpixel

You have probably heard the expression “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” There is quite a bit of truth to this. Sometimes it applies to nepotism or favoritism, but it is also a fairly good definition of networking.

“Network” is sound advice that relates to almost any endeavor. Put yourself out there. Make connections in the field you desire to be in. Do your best work all the time. And be likable. The simple truth of the matter is, if there are two qualified candidates for a position and the person filling that position knows one of them, knows their work, and likes them, that person is most likely to get the position.

Getting The Gig

I am a musician. Every band I have joined, I was asked to join by someone in the band who knew I played guitar and was familiar with my playing ability. How? Because I had played with them at one time or another previously, or they knew me and had seen me play. I have also started my own bands. Guess who I chose to be in them? Musicians I already knew, and musicians other people in the band knew and recommended.

I currently play in a cover band. A large band with a horn section and four singers. I had never played in a cover band before this one (unless you consider jazz bands cover bands.) But I had a friend who had just started playing trumpet in the band, so I went with a group of friends to see them play. The band was in its early days and they were doing it for the pure fun of playing in a band. They weren’t trying to get rich or famous. They just wanted to play music and have fun doing it. And it showed. They were having fun.

I wasn’t in a band at that time. I was only playing at church. I liked the idea of playing in a band just for the fun of it. After the gig, I went up to my friend and said, “I want to be in your band. You guys looked like you were having fun. If you ever need a guitar player (they had one) let me know.” A few months later I got a call from my friend saying their guitar player was traveling a lot and asking if I would be interested in filling in for one gig. I said, “Yes.” I didn’t say, “I need to think about it” or “I don’t want to fill in.” I just said yes.

Seize opportunities.

I tell my guitar students, “If you get a chance to play, take it. In the beginning, you shouldn’t be too picky. Gigs often lead to more gigs. Always prepare and play your best. People will see that you can play and you will meet other musicians.” This is how you start networking.

When I said yes, I realized that I only knew how to play two of the forty songs in their repertoire. And I only had a month to learn the rest. But I said yes anyway. Then I got busy learning the songs. The band plays a lot of soul, Motown, and what I call “horn songs.” Stuff by Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, and other bands that have horn sections.

Before this fill-in gig, I had mainly played rock and jazz and church music. I knew and liked most of the songs they played, but I had never learned to play any of them. It was a challenge learning to play a style of music I was unfamiliar with playing, but I was confident I could pull it off. Learning the music has made me a more versatile guitar player. Which is a good thing for a guitar teacher — my main source of income now.

When the fill-in gig finally arrived. I shook off my nerves from not feeling totally prepared and played the best I could. I guess they liked it. The next week they asked me to join the band. The band has had two guitar players ever since.

Reaping The Rewards

If I hadn’t known anyone in the band, I wouldn’t be in the band right now. If I hadn’t told my friend I was interested in playing in the band, I wouldn’t be in the band right now. I networked. It was really just two friends talking after a gig, but it was networking none the less.

I realize I have been talking about bands, but the same principals also apply to other careers or interests. Meet as many people as you can in your desired field. Seize opportunities. Always prepare and do your best work. Get your name out there. And most importantly, don’t be a jerk. That will dramatically increase your chances of getting something you really want.