Your Network is your Net worth!

I hate social events. Not for the basic reason that I hate people. I happen to love people. But I come to hate people because of these events. You only have to attend one to mirror my endearing sense of dread, if not exhume some kind of indifference. For events planned with people as the focus, the people factor seems to be absent in most of them.

Networking is this buffet of different talents and expertise that is actually meant to foster collaboration and genuine relationships for the benefit of both parties. We meet an array of people throughout our personal and professional lives. And since we have different resources, it makes sense to tap into each other’s invaluable access to knowledge, expertise and influence, and turn to them to exchange help, advice and introductions. But most of us look at these events as ladders; advancements to where we want to reach, not for a second considering who you can lift up in the process. It’s never about what can we do for each other but what can this person do for me.

Always the wallflower, I’m often a fly on the wall in most of these conversations, taking note of the fakery of enthusiasm. That’s a writer’s job after all, to notice. And I can’t help but wonder: Whatever happened to genuineness.

Knee-deep into Adam Grant’s fascinating book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, he argues that despite contrary belief that networking is a survival for the fittest type of affair, where you sell yourself to whoever you’ll trick into listening, that’s not a sustainable way to build strong networks. Then he proceeds to introduce us to Adam Rifkin. He describes him as a quiet man who looks like a panda bear. In Silicon Valley, they call him the giant panda of programming. Adam Rifkin describes himself as a shy, introverted, computer nerd who has 2 favorite languages; Javascript, the programming language and Klingon, the language spoken by aliens in Star Trek. So yeah, textbook nerd.

In 2011, Fortune conducted a research to find the top networker in the united states. The goal was to use online social networks to figure out who has the most connections to America’s most powerful people. They compiled a list of Fortune 500 CEOs, Fortune’s 50 smartest people in tech, 50 m0st powerful women and 40 hottest rising stars in business under 40. Then they cross-examined this list of 640 most powerful people to LinkedIn’s entire database of more than 90 million members.

And guess who our winning networker was. Adam Rifkin.

Connected to more of Fortune’s 640 movers and shakers than anyone else on earth. He had more than 3000 LinkedIn connections, that included Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, Twitter cofounder Evan Williams, Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake, Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, Napster co-founder Sean Parker and those weren’t even the most powerful.

How does this introverted panda emerge on top?

The reporter of this story, Jessica Shambora, who now works at Facebook laughed when Adam Rifkin’s name popped up. She was not surprised having formerly been referred to Rifkin when she needed help with another story. She said, “…he didn’t get that way by being some sort of climber, or calculated. People go to Adam because they know his heart is in the right place.”

When he first moved to Silicon Valley, he felt that giving was the natural way to come out of his shell. He says, “As a very shy, sheltered computer guy, the concept of the network was my north star. When you have nothing, what’s the first thing you try to do? You try to make a connection and have a relationship that gives you an opportunity to do something for someone else.”

When you have nothing, what’s the first thing you try to do?

That’s the reciprocity style that wins at networking.

Now networking is an important component of our everyday lives. Even the weakest of connections might one day prove beyond valuable. Just read Mark Granovetter’s paper titled ‘The strength of weak ties.’ But people deserve better. People deserve genuine. Something that doesn’t make them wonder, does he really find my line of work interesting or does he want something from me?

Our own journeys. Our own timelines. Same old chorus. No one can take you anywhere before your time. So stop giving networking a bad rep. Be there. Fully present. Without a care in the moment of what’s next for you. And when one day, a door opens of something you can do for somebody, put your heart in the right place. For then will be your moment, to network responsibly.

Adam Grant, Connection, Genuinness, Give and Take, Introvert, Networking, Social Events


Hassan Kassim

Hassan Kassim is a Mombasa-based Creative non-fiction writer, recently longlisted for the Toyin Falola prize, blogger and translator of Kiswahili work. A beneficiary of the Penpen program by African Writers Development Trust(AWDT) commissioned by Culture at Work Africa and the European Union(E.U), and holds his Bachelor’s degree in Maritime Management. Hassan writes about the ill-documented Communities of Coastal Kenya. His work has appeared in Writers Space Africa; his 2 non-fiction stories published in the anthology 'Twaweza,' a collaborative effort of 12 African writers on the African identity and set to appear in the forthcoming anthology for the Toyin Falola prize.

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Hassan Kassim is a Kenyan-based Creative non-fiction writer, blogger and translator of Kiswahili works with over 2 years of experience. A beneficiary of the Penpen program by African Writers Development Trust(AWDT) commissioned by Culture at Work Africa, and holds his Bachelor’s degree in Maritime Management.

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