Nepotism happens out of necessity in this industry. You get gigs doing blogging, consulting, conference speaking, and who knows what else (even those pesky real jobs) through knowing the right people. Obviously you need to back things up with actual ability, but many times, what gets you IN at first is definitely who you know.
I’m taking a serious risk here by paraphrasing something said by the principal in the Molly Ringwald classic “Pretty in Pink”…if you send out signals that you don’t want to belong, people will make sure that you don’t. I learned this quite quickly in high school and even through the masses of black eyeliner and pink hair, I managed to have a fairly well-adjusted four years. A few people in this industry don’t seem to have ever truly understood that, sadly, and there’s a lot of slagging off of those of us who actually make the damned effort to interact and network.
At any SEO event, I do tend to stick close to the old industry friends that I’ve made, as has been pointed out to me by several people who think that I ignore them at every available opportunity. We do have a somewhat set little group of people but here’s the thing...I cannot list a single person that I know in this industry who is in ANY way closed off to newcomers, whether they’re new to the industry or simply new to them as people they’ve met. Actually, the two individuals that I spent the most time talking to at the last LondonSEO were, in fact, people that I’ve never met before, people that I felt like I’d known forever within 5 minutes of talking to them. Sure, I spent loads of time taking photos in the loo with Lisa and Jane but that is simply how the SEO Chicks roll when alcohol is involved. Trust me when I say that people who take bathroom photos on more than one occasion are NOT snobs.
This isn’t a post about how nice I am, though…it’s a post about how, much of the time, the reason people feel unwelcome is their own damned fault. Growing up around these parts (yes, it’s another reference to the grand old South), we learn to kill people with kindness. We’re taught to be outgoing and inquire about people’s children, to ask questions and actually enjoy learning about what we hear rather than letting it drift over us. The English, I’ve found, do this particularly well. It’s honestly not difficult for me to interact with most people, but I will say that I’ve met a few people who seem to have a chip on their shoulder about being new to the industry and not warmly welcomed, even though they’ve really done nothing to cause anyone to roll out the welcome mat. I don’t recall anyone falling all over themselves trying to talk to me when I was new, unless you count Rob Kerry and that was only because I kept slapping him and asking him if he liked older women.
Networking really is essential if you expect to get anywhere in this industry. I am in no way saying that someone who does get somewhere has done so only by being charming and knowing the right people, but I AM saying that if you don’t make the effort, you most likely will not have anyone banging down your door. Whether it’s a guest blog post, the chance to speak at a conference/write for an industry publication, or get a new client, if you’ve successfully built a social network, you’re on someone’s radar. When someone pops up, you’ll be notified, and that’s what it’s all about, unless you want to spend a billion dollars on a private salesperson to be your personal pimp. If you do, in fact, want to do just that, may I suggest that you at least find a stylish one, preferably one who enjoys wearing a large timepiece around his neck? Thanks.