There was a lot of yap among my friends today about this article, on ways to look for a job in tough times. The debate was largely along the lines of, “Interesting, this is stuff I didn’t know before,” and “this is totally pointless because all it says is that internet job searches don’t work. How the fuck are you supposed to go out and meet people?”
There are a zillion ways to meet people. Check out MeetUp. Get on Facebook and LinkedIn and join every freaking group that’s even marginally related to your personal and interests. Go to every show, party, opening, release, cocktail hour, and discussion group you ever get invited to, ever. There are people looking for help. Even if the guy you talk to for 20 minutes doesn’t have a job opening that screams perfection for you, hook that guy up with one of your friends or colleagues who can help him out. Unless the connection is a smoldering failure, you’ve just established a relationship with someone who will probably come back to you the next time he needs something, and the friend you hooked up is now on the lookout for someone who needs you. Go out, meet, connect, repeat. I sometimes think this is all my friend Jeff does, which explains why he’s so successful.
But really, the fact that a lot of people ask this question indicates there’s a lot of ingenuity involved in going out and meeting the right people, which is why the people who know how to get themselves in front of other people are more likely to succeed for a few reasons. It’s the difference in a person’s perspective, between “I just learned something I might use later” and “No one’s telling me how, so I can’t.” I work for a non-profit that helps women entrepreneurs build their businesses, and if there is one single lesson I’ve learned, it’s that no one can actually tell you how to do anything. And I will tell you, even though we want to be the best resource for women who want to know how to be successful, and the people I know and work with have seen it happen and made it happen, they can’t tell you how to do it. Every success we see is a woman who asked a lot of questions of lots of people, went balls (boobs?) to the wall with executing her own plan, and then made a lot of shit up on the fly.
There is, if you’ll forgive me, the audacity of success. From everything I’ve seen in my short little life, my conclusion for the moment is that success does not belong to those who know how to do something. It’s for those who are in the constant, aggressive pursuit of figuring it out and are extremely brave in the actions they take. I heard from a woman a few weeks ago who flew hours to go to the office of a distributor who wouldn’t return her calls, and when she got there she found herself in front of a locked glass security door, with no appointment, and a receptionist on the other side. So what did she do? She tapped on the glass, and when the receptionist looked over, she did little potty dance and mouthed “I need to pee!” The receptionist let her in, and Amilya ambushed the distributor in front of the Men’s Room. She got the deal she wanted, and was on her way to building a company she later sold for $100 million. This woman is now my personal hero.
I had my own quarter life mini-crisis a little before hearing this story from Amilya. I love my job, but I was freaking out that if I wasn’t able to somehow cram all of my personal and professional aspirations into what I did at work, I would never fulfill my destiny. (Do not ask me what I thought this was, I just knew I wasn’t going to make it.) I was overwhelmed with very narrow visions of my future and pissed at everyone for not supporting my development as a unique little butterfly out to conquer the world. In the following weeks I worked one of my company’s events full of entrepreneurs, and I talked to a lot of interesting people at some kick ass parties. I got a kick to the head about making it happen myself. I took out my camera last weekend, created a Flickr account, and finally built myself a blog that I’ve committed to developing because I want to turn my personal pursuits into something real. There are millions of people who have done it before, and none of them can tell me what choices to make. But that doesn’t mean I can’t figure out how to make it work.
The thing is, there isn’t a book that will tell you how to get a job, have an emotionally mature relationship, or arrange your living room furniture correctly. There are MILLIONS. And its the same with people, everyone’s got their own story and advice. Instead of being terrified or resentful that there is no difinitive guide, this is an excellent thing. The absence of a guide book means that no one can tell you no, and no one has to grant you permission for anything. I believe that being able to handle that, or really love it, is the key.