Welcome to Mo’s Letter, a series of essays by Dr Mo on personal growth and professional success in a digital world. Today’s essay is about connections.
Growing up, certain professions seemed “necessary” to me: engineer, doctor, nurse, astronaut. Others, like marketing or sales, seemed superfluous at best—and I couldn’t understand why people would try and make a career out of them.
Years later, as I’ve ironically found myself deep in a comms and advertising career, I’ve come to realize that marketing and sales are perhaps two of the most important skills anybody can ever learn—not least because you will have to “tell and sell” yourself every day of your life, but also because so many people struggle with these fundamental skills. You tell and sell when applying for a job, looking for a romantic partner, seeking funding for a project, rousing your community to action, and more.
Over the weekend, I was grabbing coffee with some friends and a co-host who all live an hour’s drive away from me. It was the first time we were all meeting in person, and it was through an event Kena (my co-host) and I had brainstormed a few weeks prior: Meetup ZA, a concept born out of our mutual need to get out of the house and make new friends. Long after everyone else had left the coffee tasting, Kena and I spoke for hours about everything from family and careers to the strange phenomenon of trying to expand your network as you hit 30. There were more than a few things we agreed upon.
Be active and visible
Friendship (and love, and money) are all verbs—they require conscious action to materialize. #NoNewFriends is not life advice. It’s a catchy line, no doubt; but in the real world, the money, companionship, opportunities, and fulfilment you seek are in the hands of other people. This is how life has always worked.
Hiring managers mostly recruit new candidates based on referrals and recommendations—it’s just an easier heuristic to go by. Tinder is a great app (I would know), but on the whole, people still prefer to date people who know people they know.
If you’re single and actively searching, your best strategy for finding someone would be to tell your friends that you’re in the market. They’ll find someone on your behalf who is a good match for you (and who would fit into your social circle). And if you don’t trust the matches your friends would make for you, you probably need new friends (or need to deepen your existing friendships).
As social beings, we’re always vetting people based on how many other people know and trust them. Building solid relationships, then, is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself—but it requires putting yourself out there. Set up those coffee dates, make that first move, and attend that event. Nobody is going to magically find you otherwise.
B.E.G-ing for opportunities
One of the cardinal rules of marketing is that “you are not your customer”—you have to meet them where they are. It’s amazing how often people forget this rule. As an example, when a recruiter or hiring manager is searching for candidates, their first port of call is their personal networks.
“Hey, I’m looking for a copywriter; know anyone?”
If they can’t find someone within their networks, they’ll head to LinkedIn next. It thus follows that if you want to be found for that role, you need to be in their social circle or on LinkedIn—ideally both.
Having a PDF of your CV will not get you a job. Being on LinkedIn is a great start, but it will still not get you a job. Actively searching and applying for jobs is an excellent step forward, but you’ll need to go further than that: Befriend, Engage, Give. This is the only type of BEG-ing that gets you far in life.
Befriend, Engage, Give. Make it a habit to get out of your small, smelly comfort zone and meet new people. Be interesting and be interested. Ask questions, help genuinely, and give value over and over—then give some more. This is how you deposit precious wealth into your friendship accounts. When it’s time to ask for that job referral or project sponsorship or to find your next lockdown bae, you’d be surprised how much people are willing to bring to your table. The system only works if we all invest in each other.
While you’re at it, cut out the selfish, emotionally draining leeches. Ain’t nobody got time for those.
Till next week,
In my last post, I touched on curation — how to build a community, business, and marketplace around your passions. Take a look:
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Mohammed Shehu, Ph.D. writes on content and marketing for creators and brands. You can find him online @shehuphd everywhere.