THE trouble with coat tails is that they’re hard to hold onto. Sooner or later, the wearer of said coat will either see you riding along and flick you off, or they’ll take a sharp turn you weren’t expecting and you’ll inevitably lose your grip and fall off. Face down. Probably into a muddy puddle. In the rain.
It’s taken me many years of putting myself out there, showing up, networking, being of service, doing my best to create useful, engaging content and, frankly, turning up to the opening of an envelope to get my contacts list to the point it’s at today.
And I’m still building. If we look at my levels of ‘success’ in terms of Everest, I don’t think I’m even at base camp yet.
But here’s the thing… perception is king, and there are lots of people out there who seem to believe I’m about to plant my little pink flag at the summit. Some are cheering me on. Some are grumbling and wondering how I got there before them. Some just couldn’t care less if they tried. And then there are the ones who expect me to just snap my fingers and beam them right up there to enjoy the view and soak up all the benefits it’s taken me years — decades — to amass.
This latter group are the sleeve tuggers. The freeloaders. The ones who seem to think it’s perfectly okay to ride on someone else’s coat tails without putting any effort into taking their oh-so-comfy seat. Maybe you’ve met some of these people in your travels? I’m finding them more and more.
The power is within YOU
If you’ve been following me for a while, if you know me, you’ll recognise that part of my make up is wanting to help and support people. I take great pleasure in helping people to reach that breakthrough moment, in getting them to the point where they realise they really can achieve something they previously believed to be out of reach. I genuinely want you to #UnleashYourAwesome — I really do believe the potential and power is within you. Yes, YOU!
One thing I’ve learned, though — in fact, it’s a lesson I’m STILL learning — is that there has to be a line between being of service and being a schmuck.
The more visible I get, the more people who’ve never met me, never engaged with me, never been even remotely interested before, suddenly get in touch, out of the ice, cold blue, and expect a leg up.
“Hey, Taz, I see you’ve had lots of BBC airtime… can you put my name forward or introduce me to the presenter?”
“Hey, Taz, I’ve seen your TEDx. I want to do a TEDx. Can you connect me with the organiser and put a good word in?”
“Hey, Taz, you have hooks into America… can you get me a show on that platform you’re part of?”
“Hey, Taz, you know (insert your choice of author/celeb/presenter/speaker/business person I happen to be connected with here). Can you give me their email?”
“Hey, Taz, you’ve done some TV/written some books/spoken at…” etc, etc, etc
Believe it or not, I’ve even had the odd person who’s badmouthed me in the past wondering why I’m not suddenly putting their name forward for the next big opportunity.
Of course, what people don’t see is that I connect people with these kinds of opportunities all the time behind the scenes.
I put people forward for speaking gigs, podcasts, radio shows, to various media outlets, as well as suggesting them for potential business opportunities. It’s not unusual for me to make direct introductions either, or to invite people to events full of positive networking opportunities.
Guess what? People I’ve developed good relationships with over the years have done the same for me. Mutual trust rocks! Some of my best opportunities have come that way.
Who do I recommend?
So who are the people I recommend? The people I frequently bend over backwards to help? The people I know. The people I trust. The people who’ve built a relationship with me over time. The people with whom there’s mutual support, belief and loyalty.
If an opportunity presents and it comes down to connecting someone I have a pre-existing relationship with or someone who’s just cold messaged me on LinkedIn, emailed my team with a bunch of demands and expectations or previously been a long way from polite, whose name do you think I’m going to drop?
The contacts I have took a long time and lots of networking to build up. The opportunities I enjoy are the result of years of effort — learning, showing up, networking (online and off), putting myself out there, creating content, being of use, being of service, putting in that extra bit of effort — even when I felt like my reserves were empty, or if I really wanted to stay in and watch that TV show instead.
Here’s another little something to bear in mind: every time I introduce someone to a contact I have a good relationship with, I’m putting my own reputation on the line too… would you recommend someone you don’t even know or have no benchmark for?
Barriers are there to be broken down
Does that mean I’m a closed shop? No… but, as I said to someone who once complained that an online networking group seemed like a big clique: “We were all newbies once. We all felt that perceived barrier at some point. Those of us still here are the ones who kept engaging, kept joining in conversations, kept doing our best to get to know people and build trust. We kept on gradually chipping away. That’s the way of the world. Instant trust, as far as I’m aware, hasn’t been invented yet.”
Don’t expect something for nothing… and that doesn’t always mean bartering… it means building trust, likability and relationships.
Don’t expect a free ride… not when there are people who’ve been patiently waiting in line and putting the effort in for far longer.
Don’t keep trying to ride on coat tails. Get your own goddamn coat!
And don’t expect an overnight success… most ‘overnight success’ stories were years in the making.
Know where you want to end up, then put the effort in.
Pretty much every ‘opportunity’ I’ve ever had came as the result of networking, delivering good work/content/service and consistency. And I’m pretty sure everyone who ever recommended me for a job, or introduced me to a useful contact had a good idea of who I was and what I was about first.
The opportunities are out there for you too, but you can’t reach that summit without prepping for the climb.