Sometimes it feels that a PhD in linguistics is a must to be able to interpret the management speak present in today’s top companies. Corporate business is stuffed full of jargon, egos and clichés but there is one phrase I want to shine the spotlight on today: it’s who you know – not what you know. I am guilty of using this phrase in the past but having given it more thought I believe the phrase is wrong.

I fully appreciate the power of strong networks, both in my business and personal life and due to an early awareness of ‘it’s who you know’, I’ve spent many years growing and cultivating mine. I am now 20 years into my career and have seen the detrimental effects of ‘it’s who you know’ in business time and time again. Sometimes it works beautifully and a personal recommendation is often worth ten times that of a recruitment consultant but it can have a negative effect on the wider team, company performance and even the profit levels.

My opinion and something which is reflected in my own life is that the phrase should read as follows; ‘It’s who you know and what you know that counts’. It’s fantastic to be given off-market opportunities, that the less-connected may never be privy to. But once you have landed that opportunity; an element of ‘it’s what you know’ must be brought to the table. If it isn’t, the phrase backfires. You gain access to an opportunity and ‘what you know’ isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, you may perform badly or unethically, whatever it is, the ‘who you know’ will find out! Bad news travels fast. Taking with it the credibility you’ve built up within your perfectly networked circles.

As a business troubleshooter, I was often surrounded by the consequences. So whoever it is you know and whatever opportunities you’re privileged enough to be presented with; please be sure to accessorize this with ‘what you know’.

You can never know enough. Keep developing your skills, your knowledge and never stop learning. To cease to evolve is to cease to exist and extinction isn’t helpful… be it within your personal circles, on your CV or in your business.

Sallee Says:

If you don’t know; ask. If it is inappropriate to ask; learn!