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The Key to Success: Networking or Talent?

March 28th, 2005 by Bob Bly

I hate networking for several reasons.

One is I?m introverted and shy.

The other is I like to be home ? not out schmoozing for business.

But let me ask you?.

If you HAD to pick one or the other, what factor would you say is the most important contributor to business success?

1. WHAT you know — your skills, knowledge, training, expertise, and experience, or

2. WHO you know — the contacts you make through networking?


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43 responses about “The Key to Success: Networking or Talent?”

  1. Harry Joiner said:

    Interesting question. It depends on the nature of the work. To a certain extent, I get paid to develop and maintain a broad network of really good people. That’s natural: I’m a headhunter. But I suppose things would be different if I were an crop-dusting pilot. Fact is, some jobs require the worker to get things done through people, and some jobs (like the crop-duster and the mortician) don’t.

    The trick is to plant yourself in the right kind of soil. You can’t be a tulip in the desert: As soon as you realize you’re a tulip bulb — seek out environments that will be conducive to your growth. Harsh desert environments won’t work for a tulip, although they’re perfect for the cactus. What kind of plant are you?

    I’ve had jobs where I got fired, and jobs where I was promoted to senior management. I was the same person in both instances — but my level of confluence with the organization’s values was 180 degrees different in each case.

    When looking for a new career opportunity: Know thyself, and to thy ownself be true.


  2. Bruce DeBoer said:

    That’s easy Bob: Networking. Without feeling too arrogant or conceited I can say that I’ve held my own with many top level talents in my 25 yr. Prof. career as both a photographer ( ) or a marketing professiona. Even so, I can count on two hands the number of jobs I’ve gotten solely on merit.

    Without question talent is expected once you get the job, but friends, or friends of friends, have been responsible for most of my best opportunities [a big thank you to them]. Even a short introduction is often enough. Isn’t that one of the reasons we blog?


  3. Garrick Van Buren said:

    I concur, Networking. Without that, I wouldn’t know who would buy my services.

  4. Tom Kane said:

    No brainer. Networking. When it comes to lawyers, a client is not in the best position to judge the skill level, knowlege, or expertise of a lawyer unless they are lawyers themselves. Further, how can someone believably convey their knowledge and experience without appearing self-serving. Whereas those you know, and in turn know you, are in a much more credible position to talk about how capable you are. Referrals will bring greater success to those less talented through effective networking.

  5. Elisa Camahort said:

    Gotta agree: it’s networking. I think I can connect every single job or project I’ve ever had…ever…to knowing someone somewhere along the line. Doesn’t mean they’ll automatically like you once you have the gig. In fact, their expectations might be even higher. But that’s where the talent and skill comes in.

  6. TonyD said:

    Definitly WHO, but with a caveat. The company of someone smarter and better informed than you is the most valuable asset you can get. It’s way more important to learn than to impress.

    I used to eschew networking. I much preferred sitting at my desk with my head in my work. Then I got laid off from my very nice consulting position – in part because I’d gotten too out of touch with where the company was going. When I was out on my own, I was amazed how many of my former contacts were open to sitting down and just having a conversation. That’s where my initial business came from. A lot of those loose acquaintances became good business contacts just through a conversation.

    That’s my 2 cents. Hope it helps. 🙂

  7. Jim Logan said:

    The thought I have…If I had to give one up, given no other choice, which would I be willing to loose first – contacts or skills, knowledge, training, expertise, and experience? My answer is I’d give up my contacts.

    There’s a bit of “chicken or egg” here, but I believe my contacts are a result of my skills, knowledge, training, expertise, and experience.

    With great contacts, but limited to no skills, knowledge, training, expertise, and experience – my business is dead. In this case, I have great contacts, but I have nothing of value to offer them. My contacts have risk either using or recommending me.

    With limited to no contacts, but great skills, knowledge, training, expertise, and experience – I can still eat. I have the skills to build a great reputation and contacts.

  8. Shannon Stoltz said:

    I’d say – Who – based on Who knows what I do (skills and experience) and how well I do it. Nearly every job and assignment I’ve ever had has come from a referral. But not necessary because I’ve gone out and networked – as I too am introverted and loathe to “network”, but rather because of relationships I’ve built over time and experiences.

  9. David St Lawrence said:


    I have to admire the way you set up questions. It must be your direct mail experience.

    The actual answer, proved by years of rigorous testing in the trenches, is: Both are necessary for success.

    All the talent in the world will not get you a job without contacts who will hire or recommend you. All the poeple skills that make networking effortless are useless if you cannot deliver.

    Think of it this way: Networking starts the conversation. Talent lets you consumate the relationship to everyone’s satisfaction.

  10. E. Alvin Davis said:

    Bob, it’s a great question.

    For some clues, see my post on The Obvious (But Little Known) First Rule Of Consulting Success at

    As mentioned in the post, the first rule of success is “to be noticed.” There’s no escaping that fact. If you’re not noticed, you’re dead in the water.

    Having said that, I believe that ultimately, talent reigns supreme, especially superior talent. If someone is remarkable, as illustrated in Peter Stone’s story, they can’t help but be successful.

    Not being one to straddle the fence, let me put down my vote for … both! 🙂

    Take care and continue your great posts.


    E. Alvin Davis

  11. David Stoddard said:

    My answer… hmmmmm. So much depends on so much. I feel if you are still early in your career/area, then networking is a key to getting out there and getting noticed. There are some kids in small towns who are awesome basketball players who may never be noticed just because of their lack of contacts.

    On the other hand, I am sure we all can point to folks who pretty much suck at what they do, but they have moved onward and upward just on the basis of perhaps others on their contact list who either did all the work or just finding the right person at the right time.

    Ohh such a slippery slope of a question. 🙂

  12. Mistina said:

    As a fledgling freelancer, I’d have to say that networking is most important in the beginning. All of my assignments thus far have come from being in the right place at the right time or reaching out to the people I knew from my previous, gainfully employed existence.

    Yes, it’s my talent that has kept me afloat and satisfied my clients, but until my skills have earned me the level of fame as, say, Bob Bly’s, then I’m going to have to rely on networking and other means of marketing to let the world know I’m out here and for hire.

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