I recently saw an advertisement for an event at a local college called “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” I was appalled you can’t succeed in business without trying, I thought. Outraged at the idea of someone selling snake oil solutions to people looking for ways to improve their careers, I did some research. Turns out it’s a play. A musical, actually. But it got me thinking. What’s the number one thing that every worker can do to get ahead in business? What really gets you ahead? Networking.
I could espouse the merits of networking until I’m blue in the face, but let’s face it you don’t want theories you want proof. I might be a little bit late to the party on this, but I was catching up on business news and started reading up on the next CEO of Ernst Young, Mark Weinberger. The chief executive-elect, as he’s officially called, has a solid educational background and a an impressive resume. A February article in the Washington Post tells Weinberger’s story in his own words. Since his first “real” job at Ernst Young, he’s worked for a Senator, co-founded a successful lobbying firm, returned to EY, served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and returned, yet again, to Ernst Young.
Networking has grown to be a buzz word. What Weinberger has done so well through his career is to build relationships. During his time working for Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., he had a “thirst for knowledge and would talk with many members of Congress.” More than just handing out business cards, shaking hands and kissing babies, he was creating relationships and positive impressions.
His lobbying firm grew and eventually sold to Ernst and Young. He also returned to EY. Weinberger clearly hasn’t burned bridges along the way. Neither is he showy. He’s no Donald Trump, shouting for all the world to hear how fantastic he is. I haven’t met Weinberger and I don’t have any insider information about him but he seems to be every bit the journeyman responsible and steady with the kind of reputation everyone wants, but few people seem to develop widely.
The problem, as I see it, is the steady and responsible types rarely self-promote. They are often reluctant to boast and spend more time on work than marketing their potential. How can the meek inherit the earth, so to speak, if they don’t let anyone know they are ready, available and willing?
Mark Weinberger should teach a course about quality networking and building relationships. Asking thoughtful questions of colleagues and business acquaintances sends the message that you’re serious about being the best at what you do. A pleasant attitude and genuine greeting can be tremendously memorable, especially in these impersonal days of internet-only social interaction. You don’t have to totally eschew social networking platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook but you should make a concentrated effort to maximize real-world interactions. Attend networking events, get involved in local business organizations and get in front of people beyond those you work with day in and day out. Without a solid network, you may never hear about the career opportunity of a lifetime.