Monday, December 8, 2014

Sometimes it's better to play poker

I've been re-watching The West Wing lately because there's never a bad reason to revisit a brilliantly written show. Also the last time I watched it I was too young to fully understand or appreciate the show's brilliance. For example, in one of the episodes Charlie (played the wonderful Dule Hill), the President's personal aide, sat in a bar surrounded by co-eds enjoying the start Spring Break. He felt very self-conscious of his lack of a college education, as if the crowd's degrees in progress were a requirement to associate with them. At the end of the episode, Charlie spent the rest of the evening playing poker with the President and senior staff.

I bring this up because Charlie, in his youth, caught up in his own wants and insecurities, failed to fully understand or appreciate his position. If anyone in that bar was paying attention to who he was drinking with, they would have been envious of him. They also would have marveled that he didn't need a masters in political science to hang out with members of the senior staff. 

I'm not saying that college degrees are a waste of time. A good education is never a waste of time. But if hobnobbing with influential people is your goal, and let's face it, one can never know too many influential people, it's going to take more than a few letters tagged on to your name to earn their trust. Some might say that Charlie was lucky. I say he was in the right place at the right time and made a good impression.

The adage "it's not what you know but who you know that matters" is still true, no matter what business you're in. It's a shame that networking isn't a required course in school. Such an essential skill shouldn't be left to fate and it seems wrong to let the extroverts dominate. Perhaps it's intentional. A culling process so to speak. Those who want it the most get the prize? Who knows. What's important is that recognizing the need for developing relationships and gathering contacts. Business-wise, the hours I've spent networking have served me far better than the hours I spent in the classroom.

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