It was just after a graduate social gathering. We were at a bar (of course) and just shy of our third drink when it happened. We started talking about our future and the industry we were entering. We talked about what we loved but mostly what we hated. We chose the public relations field for the love of creating and communicating. We chose this field because we were the extroverts in school that chose art as an elective rather than economics. We learned a lot over the past year and a half, and now we were learning what the rather large and ugly elephant in the room was-disingenuous relationships aka fake people. We are constantly told to network. The saying goes, "sometimes it's not what you know but whom you know." We had the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people in our program from CEOs to Directors. We made it a priority to meet them in person and try and make a good impression. We built our LinkedIn profiles with these relationships, and most of the time, that is where we left things. It was in the numbers; quantitative rather than qualitative. What they don't tell you is that building genuine authentic relationships is the key to being successful in this field.
Fast forward a few months and I was on my way to attend SXSW in Austin. Best known for its music and film festivals, SXSW is where the interactive, film, and music industries are converged. I met people from all around the world who worked in a multitude of different industries. We shook hands, exchanged cards, and even managed to grab drinks. I met an MBA student who was interested in starting his own business. He was at SXSW to network. I told him that networking wasn't all it's hyped to be. I found building genuine relationships more difficult to obtain rather than the everyday shake and exchange of business cards. I told him that we owe it to ourselves to create better relationships because that's how real things that matter happen. Building a relationship is all about investing in yourself and the people around you rather than hitting a goal. Having genuine relationships is how we gain momentum in the industry and become better people and better communicators. Those who are willing to invest in his business have to have similar values as him, and those values come out over time. It was time well spent on each other. Honestly, he didn't want to hear it. He smiled and nodded; said his polite goodbyes and off he was exchanging more cards and shaking more hands.
Back at the bar with my student colleagues, we sat thinking about the idea of building fake relationships for the rest of our careers. There had to be more than this. LinkedIn is not the new Facebook. It is a platform created to connect and inspire leaders, motivate team members, and build strong networks. We have to be the change in the industry, and we have to get over this hump of relationship building. Someone doesn't have to be your best friend to be a good team member. They just have to be in it for all the right reasons.