The one piece of advice I’d give myself from 15 years ago

“Skills are overrated, Connections are invaluable”.

Fresh out of school and eager to ‘conquer the world” I wish I focused a lot less on picking up “Analysis”, “Critical thinking”, “Strategy”, “Time Management”, “Project Management” skills and instead focused on “building and growing connections with people”.

I get 2-3 people emailing me to be their mentor every day. Most of these folks are young, fresh out of school and are at a large company – most times a tech company like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc.

Since I have very little time, I schedule 15 min when I can with them to help them learn what I did not learn, but wish I had 15 years ago.

Most young people focus on picking up “skills” or “intellectually stimulating global assignments” like a stint in China or India, etc. so they can be a well rounded individual. Then I try to push them towards entrepreneurship.

At this point, they usually (90% of them) tell me the dont think they have the skills to be an entrepreneur and point to their lack of sales, marketing, branding, positioning, coding, scaling, hiring, interviewing, motivating, etc. Any number of skills that they believe they dont have yet to be an entrepreneur.

Here’s the thing – skills are easy to develop for “most” people. If you are at a company like Microsoft or Google (or any other large company), you are reasonably skilled already. Else, they would have not hired you.

Focus your attention on building networks and connections with people instead at these places. There are folks who will be there building careers for the next 15-20 years there. They will get to important positions, just because they are there for so long. You will need their help at some point.

The other way I have found is to offer help on projects that executives have which they will never get to but are keen to execute. Offering your time and smarts towards that helps you build a relationship with top executives.

Build connections and networks not skills.

2 thoughts on “The one piece of advice I’d give myself from 15 years ago”

  1. Bang on! I also agree that given 15-30 days, any moderately intelligent individual can learn any task. Barring the professional services of course. there is one more ingredient as well.

    Skill + connections + ability to tell stories = success

  2. Mukund, I wish people had told me that communication and the ability to get your ideas and thoughts across was critical! Today, more than ever, the ability to choose the right word to clothe your ideas is an incredibly rare commodity. I would argue that communication is the first building block for your career……and yes, the need to network, listen and grow.

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