Brilliance is not enough – you need to build relationships!

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family-owned business. Maybe it’s because I grew up a bit “socially awkward.” Maybe it’s because I spent 20 years in corporate communications. Whatever it is, I grew up with a very strong sense of inclusiveness when it comes to interacting with people. The concept that you “can’t judge a book by its cover” has always been meaningful to me; I’ve always enjoyed interacting with and learning from a broad range of people–trying hard not to pre-judge those I come into contact with. That has served me well.

Over the years I’ve been amazed to find how the most extraneous connections from my past have proven to be helpful to me in various ways–whether applying for jobs, learning about new opportunities, landing new clients or making social connections. Your reputation truly does precede you, whether you recognize it or not. How you treat others will come back to impact you, for good or ill.

Being open to others, as opposed to only seeking to interact with “people like you” can serve you well.

I was reminded of this recently while watching The Internship¬†(my taste in movies is also varied!). In the movie there is an “odd” character who appears mid-way through as Vince Vaughan, Owen Wilson and their team members are looking for a place to sit for lunch. They’re not part of the “popular crowd” so they’re ostracized and relegated to the back of the room where the only spot left available is with another apparent outcast–a large, awkward looking, bearded man, buried in his computer. Someone that nobody else wants to sit with.

Of course, at the end of the movie we learn that this outcast was really a “plant” and is, in fact, a recruiter for Google. That’s bad news for those that avoided, or perhaps even, laughed at or demeaned this man. But it’s good news for those who overlooked the surface attributes that might have screamed “weirdo!!” and took the time to get to know him.

That sort of thing happens often. And, of course, despite my attempt to try to be as inclusive as possible in my interactions with others, I know I’m not immune to making snap judgments about people I don’t know. But I’m alert to that tendency and I know that it’s not a wise networking move. In fact, I’ve heard countless stories from business professionals about how chance encounters led to great opportunities–even when those encounters didn’t involve someone who “looked the part.”

You may be the most brilliant person in the world, but if convey the sense that¬†you think you’re the most brilliant person in the world and are overly selective in terms of those you choose to associate with, you just might be missing out on opportunities. Brilliance is not enough. To succeed in any profession or endeavor we need to build relationships. Relationships are built with other people and other people are different, increasingly moreso as our world becomes increasingly global and increasingly open to different opinions and perspectives–a very good thing.

The takeaway: don’t overlook the unique opportunities that are all around you every day. You never know when that store clerk, a stronger at the grocery store, or the second cousin of a relative of a friend who has multiple tattoos and plays “weird” music, just might lead you to discoveries and opportunities that you would never have had if you chose to just interact with those you thought could help you get ahead.

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