Everyone’s heard the cliche “It’s never what you know but who you know” a million times or more. It’s cliche because it’s true, so please don’t discount it, readers. But when I speak with high school and college students these days, there’s another element of success I find myself bringing up more and more because I’ve seen it come into play with increasing frequency in recent years.
I call it the like-ability factor.
In work (and in life and college admissions – and even with horses) who you know is significant. We know this already. Who you know can be the difference between getting a first chance at something and getting none at all. Who you know can open the right doors at the right time. But there’s a second component to this element of being known that isn’t insignificant – it’s the simple, kindergarten-level fact that people will help you if they know and like you. And that concept of being both known and liked can’t be underestimated as we find ourselves living in a world that is increasingly littered with some pretty deep divides.
Please bear in mind readers (especially student readers!) that even though I refer to like-ability as being kindergarten-level stuff, it isn’t necessarily as simple as it seems on the surface – which is to say that just because people know and like you (which is certainly the jumping off point) doesn’t automatically mean that they know you, like you, and will call you when they have your dream job description at their fingertips. Would that it were that simple (!), but there’s another cliched saying that you’re probably also familiar with – the one that says “nice guys (and gals) finish last.”
Summary: I know and like a lot of very nice people I wouldn’t hire to work for me.
Working like-ability and personal like-ability aren’t necessarily the same thing, you see. Working like-ability is a combination of competence, reliability, and work ethic combined with a reputation for being a team player, pleasant to be around, and all of the other factors that go into personal like-ability.
But whereas personal like-ability can often be determined in a few seconds, working like-ability has to develop over time (and you can’t rush it).
Where should you start to build this working like-ability if you’re a high school or college student who hopes to one day leverage both who you know (and who knows you) and your working like-ability into the care er of your dreams? The following three items will set you up and send you on your way:
- Attitude. We all know that one person in class, at the barn, in our neighborhood whom no one wants to be around because they have a horrible outlook on life and bring situations down with doses of constant negativity. Nothing that goes wrong is ever their fault; nothing is ever up to their ever-increasing standards; they never want to pitch in and help when there’s work to be done. Assuming an attitude (and then demonstrating!) that no work is beneath you, no job is too small, and no person deserves to be treated poorly is a great start toward having an attitude that people enjoy being around.
- Follow through. If you say you’re going to do something, make sure you do it. It’s surprising the number of people who will constantly tell you their plans and yet weeks, months, and even years pass and those plans never materialize. Perhaps their goals are too lofty or they have changes in their lives that necessitate a change in direction, but I’d venture to say that the other 90 percent of the time, people do all of their planning by talking about it rather than actually doing what it takes to accomplish the goals they’ve spoken of. If you’re the person who does follow through, rest assured people will notice.
- Be kind and be fair. Kindness and fairness are separate from having a good attitude (bullet one) because they require you to make an active choice in your day-to-day interactions with others. You can be kind or you can choose not to be; you can be fair and equitable or you can twist situations to give yourself an edge. These are decisions you get to make in each situation that’s presented to you. But I guarantee that the more times you choose to be both kind and fair over the alternatives, the easier it will get to choose the same choice over and over again – and the more you’ll get kindness and fairness you’ll receive in return. (Karma is a subject for another blog on another day, but trust me, it’s a real thing.)
As the end of the old year approaches and the new one prepares to begin, many people are contemplating the resolutions they’d like to set for themselves and the changes they’d like to make in their lives. For students, I encourage you to consider your future plans and the intangible factors that will help you find success. Sure, a college degree will be useful and there are a lot of pieces that go into earning one of those, but sometimes the unseen things – like who you know and that elusive like-ability factor – are just as important (and sometimes even more valuable). So get out there and be the most like-able version of yourself in 2017!