It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Is it?

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

What do you think about this phrase? It’s true isn’t it? A lot of the speaking work I get is because people know me and know what I can do. They contact me and ask me to speak at their events because they’ve either heard me speak before or someone else has told them about me. Last year I had the great honour of speaking at Pink Training, organised by the USI. (As a side note it’s an amazing event that should be made public. Anyone and everyone should attend this training.) Anyway, why did they ask me? Well they me asked because someone from the Galway students union had heard me speak before and recommend me to USI.

Another example, a few days ago during a meeting I was offered a job. This position isn’t formalised but the group know me and asked if I’d be interested. They’ve seen what I’m capable of and decided I’d be good for the job. Obviously I was very flattered.

So you see, it’s not what you know, it’s who you.

This phrase is a nice phrase and many will say it fits their profession or daily life and during conversations when something has gone the right way, you’ll often hear them say “see, it’s true, it’s not what you know it’s who you know!”

Well, I disagree. Yes it’s a nice phrase and in most situations I could find a reason to use it and make it fit but I’d still be wrong.

Why did USI ask me to speak? Because of the recommendations? Yes, but what lead to that? What lead to it was someone else hearing me speaking and hearing what I had to say on a specific subject matter – LGBT+ mental health in this instance – so again you could say this was still a case of who you know! But to be asked to speak I had to “know my stuff” as they say. I didn’t know my subject matter I wouldn’t be asked to speak at these events so ”what you know” is extremely important.

When I started training to be a coach I knew no one else on the course, none of the other students and neither of the tutors. I spent all those months learning the skills needed from experienced trainers and coaches who knew what they were doing. They trained all of us well and gave us the tools, skills and abilities to be coaches. As the course came to a close we sat a written exam. It made absolutely no difference that, by this time, I knew every other student on the course well or that I knew the two trainers. We’d socialised, had frank discussions about all sorts of topics, and gained an insight in to each others lives. Knowing them made absolutely no difference to my results in the exam. What got me through the exam was what I knew. I’d paid attention during the lessons and that is what got me through.

All of us have skills and abilities regardless of who we know or where we know them from and saying it’s who you know not what you know takes away from the effort and time you put in to learning that skill. So when you do something great or something great happens because of your work, and someone says to you “see, it’s who you know not what you know,” tell them no. What you know is far more important because without those skills you wouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Take pride in your abilities and don’t be afraid to say “I am great!” because I assure you, you are.

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