…what you know is who you know…

Herminia Ibarra, Professor of Management at INSEAD Graduate School of Business says “what you know is who you know” and busy managers don’t spend nearly enough time on professional networking.

“All things being equal, what is going to give you an edge? It’s the relationships that you have that allow you to augment what you know and actually translate it into practice, into something the organization can use.
It makes all the difference.”

Networking is about developing a collegial relationship. It’s not about getting a new job, initially. It’s about sharing and soliciting professional ideas. Networking is a cornerstone of professional development.

Ibarra divides Networking can be divided into three different categories:

  • Operational Networking – cultivating a relationship with people you need to accomplish your job. e.g. team members, supervisors, vendors, customers, clients.
  • Personal/Professional Networking – people in your field/profession/industry with whom you share and solicit ideas. These contacts help you benchmark your career accomplishments and you’ll use them to make a career move.
  • Strategic Networking – senior leaders and executives in and outside your field allowing you to move into new, challenging roles in your field and potentially in new organizations or even new industries with the right balance of transferable competencies and accomplishments.

“The challenge here is that people feel they don’t have the time to develop new relationships. Some even believe its using people; is political, sleazy, unsavory, and in some cases, contradictory to one’s culture,” says Ibarra. These are poor excuses as it’s clear that seeking, sharing and soliciting ideas, information and insights about your work/field/industry is essential to career management.

Ibarra states, “I haven’t seen any national culture (in which) things don’t get done through networks.” Managing relationships and selling ideas is how people advance in their career.

In sum, That’s what networking is all about.


Make a list of people in the three categories Ibarra advises. How will your discussions be both similar and different in these discussions?

Thomas Bachhuber, Ed.D., President of the Board and Executive DirectorThomas Bachhuber, Ed.D.
President of the Board and Executive Director for The Center for Life Transitions. Tom is responsible for overall Center leadership and strategy. His individual coaching/counseling as well as workshops and retreats focus on integrating leading career development ideas with spiritual exploration. Read more.