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Monday, May 16, 2022

The Importance Of Valuable Contacts And Connections

This side of the world, who you know is more valuable than what you know. As a matter of fact, what you know is valuable but who you know is invaluable. What you know bespeaks knowledge, skill, expertise, capabilities; who you know bespeaks connections, recommendations, platforms, opportunities.

It so happens that no matter how you know what you know, no matter how skilled and talented you are at your craft, you cannot thrive and make headway if you have no access to the platforms and opportunities you need to showcase your capabilities and be handsomely rewarded for it.

Every performer needs a stage and every man of skill needs opportunities to showcase his skill, practise his craft and thereby get noticed, patronized and rewarded. Without access to platforms and opportunities, knowledge and skill are practically useless and worthless as they add no value to your life or to society.

Knowledge becomes profitable and therefore worthwhile only when it is gainfully applied to create value. And this can only happen when you have access to the platforms and opportunities you need to gainfully engage your knowledge.

But alas, the platforms and opportunities you need are often outside the ambit of your control. Unless you have the means to create or inherit your own platform, you most likely would have to look to the larger society for access to such platforms and opportunities. It is the larger society, or more precisely, the prevailing societal order that controls and dictates how these platforms and opportunities can be accessed. And the prevailing composition of the Nigerian system requires that you know and be known by the right people to access the opportunities and platforms you need to engage your expertise.

It is the people you know and that know you in return that in today’s Nigeria largely determine what you get. It is the people you know that will recommend you for jobs. It is the people you know that will give you valuable placements or appointments in the workplace. It is the people you know that will give your brand valuable word of mouth referral. It is the people you know that will give you an edge and help you secure opportunities in competitive situations.

“Your network”, as the saying has it, truly “equals your net worth”. It is your network of friends, family, mentors, benefactors, partners and acquaintances that largely determine what opportunities you get and therefore what pecuniary rewards you get out of the system.

On a normal day, what you know should suffice to get you the platforms and opportunities you need. A “good product”, as the saying has it, “advertises itself”. Your knowledge, skill, expertise and talents should normally advertise you and get you needed opportunities but things have deviated largely from the norm. Your skill and expertise alone are simply no longer enough. And this is sadly the case for two quick reasons.

First, you have no monopoly of knowledge or skill. There are countless others who know what you know, who do what you do and who are as good if not even better than you. And they are equally entitled to the same opportunities as you are. So merely being good at your craft no longer suffices.

Second, by some unspoken code of human conduct, people often give opportunities first to those they know. They move from the familiar to the unfamiliar in the allocation of opportunities. They service their personal interests and those of their associates first before the service general interests. And this isn’t really amoral; it is simply keeping with the universal natural law of self preservation.

For this reason, you need to have valuable contacts and connections, especially in your field of expertise. You need to have contacts who can recommend you for opportunities and give you and yours consideration ahead of others; contacts who can advertise your brand, promote your capabilities and introduce you to the high and mighty both in private and public circles. Without such valuable contacts and connections, you may be cut off from valuable opportunities and therefore struggle to make headway no matter how talented or knowledgeable you are.

Having said this, let me admit, going forward, that I would just have painted a lopsided picture of the system if I do not also admit that not all opportunities are given out or secured on the basis of connections. Many opportunities even within the prevailing systemic order, especially in private circles, are secured purely on merit. And I personally know a handsome handful of people who have secured life altering opportunities both in the private and public spaces without the help of any benefactor but purely by means of merit. But often, such opportunities secured on merit are the leftovers intended for general interests after the personal interests of relevant stakeholders have been settled.

Again, let me admit that powerful contacts and connections do not always translate to opportunities and recommendations. There are many instances where people who know and are known by influential people have had to grapple with a drought of opportunities like everyone else. In fact, there are people who even share blood ties with influential people but who unfortunately have had to struggle on their own to earn a living, getting nothing in the form of assistance from their opulent kith and kin.

Such instances, however, are the exception rather than the norm and do not takeaway from the importance and value of having a viable network of contacts and connections. It is always better to have important contacts in your network and follow up on them because things could change dramatically at any time. Something valuable may just come up and you may just be remembered and recommended for a life changing opportunity.

In conclusion, I will like to borrow from the storied experience of the Biblical Joseph to state that every Joseph needs a cupbearer to transit from prison to palace and from prisoner to prime minister. Every man of skill needs a cupbearer to sing of their skills in the right ears to enable them transit from where they are to where they ought to be. And for this to happen, every Joseph and indeed every man and woman must cultivate the social skills necessary to forge lasting alliances, build mutually beneficial friendships and ultimately build a network of viable contacts and connections across the various strata of society. We all need to have contacts among the high and mighty and among the middle and lower classes. This way, we can get recommendations both from high and low places and thereby stand a chance to transition like Joseph from prisoner to prime minster.

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