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The Power of Connection

By Katie Doyle, Mentor Her Founder

The power of connection is important for so many reasons, whether it's moving up the ladder, making the right decisions for your next move or finding opportunities that might not have been offered to you before.

But I find that being connected, and having connections can do more for you than just an opportunity. It can change the way you see yourself, as an ambitious professional, and the way others view you as someone who understands and takes into account the advice that is provided to them.

1. You need to be surrounded by the right people

Here's something that I learned very early about the importance of connections for my own mental health. When I was just starting out in business, things weren't looking very good. After travelling the world on the tiniest budget, the bit of work I did get had dried up and I was broke coming home from backpacking to start my first business- a travel agency. Things were about to get much more difficult and I knew it. Getting a license to operate as a travel agency would eventually lead to months of negotiations, constant doubt, fighting for my idea at every turn. There was a constant feeling that I was out of my depth, and that at any moment I would slip off a ridge and drown. On my way home from travelling, a good friend of mine told me that it wouldn't work. She was a friend from college, one of the only people I had managed to stay in touch with as I traveled. And we had had great times travelling together too but this cynicism for my big dreams wasn't a first. With a previous project of mine, this friend had torn threw it, laughed about it openly and told me that she had shown it to some of her other friends who thought it was disastrous. It broke me. But we had continued being friends.

But this new business, unlike my small first project, was a bigger baby. It was going to hurt a lot and there would be lots of days when I wasn't feeling like having to prove myself to one of the only "friends" in my life. The nail in the coffin for me was one final comment. Reminiscing that two boys we had gone to college had also pursued entrepreneurship, and had even received funding for it- she was bitter. Life is easy for them, she said, because they're white men. You know, you won't get funding just because you're a woman. And then I thought to myself, that's a limiting mindset that I don't need. I will get funding because I am a woman- I responded. It wasn't true of course, but that was the mindset I needed. If I thought like her, assumed the victim mentality- why would I even begin? If I decided that I couldn't get ahead because I'm a woman, then why even try?

It really hurt to cut her off. I regret it all the time. Not because I need her, but because I was cruel to just cut off contact like that. I don't like being the mean one but I knew that if I had my only friend tell me that I couldn't do things on a routine basis, I might start believing her. Looking back on the year that followed, it was a full twelve months before I was able to trade and it was full of tears and pain and self-doubt like nothing else I've ever experienced. But I did it. Eventually, two years later, I had two six figure months.

When I started my business and when I got it running, I replaced my friend with other friends, in higher places. Men and women who had also been through what I had been through, who understood the struggle of business. People that didn't make me feel stupid for having a bad day or desperate for wanting to be better. People who wanted to be inspiring, the people who wanted to be the person that others looked up to. People who woke up every morning and wanted to better, much better, than they were yesterday. And when you have those kind of connections, when you have those kind of friends, you can never have a bad day.

2. They don't want to see history repeat itself

Lots of people might wonder why anybody helps each other at all. Especially women, we always think we're in competition with one another and that people just won't help because of it. When I started Mentor Her, it even surprised me the level of female altruism. When you're looking for help, people from all walks of life will come out of the woodwork to help guide you in the next steps, who genuinely want to connect with someone lower down on the level of success. But why?

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that people, whether they're entrepreneurs or corporate executives, they really just don't want to see history repeat itself. Anyone that's become successful has made a huge amount of mistakes to get where they are today. When you think about someone who is just starting out, you know that they have not had the experience that you've had.

I can speak to my own journey again on this one, especially in my early days as a travel agent. I had a mission: how do I reach the student market in Ireland to book my group tours? I asked people who didn't know anything about students and sometimes there were good ideas, sometimes there weren't. We tried to incentivize the students to purchase group trips by getting t-shirts made. But we were on a tight margin already and the t-shirts cut in, they were bad quality and nobody wanted them. Students, it turned out, didn't need another pub-crawl-styled t-shirt. I did other things too, hopeless things that will have any other entrepreneur reading this cringe. I spent thousands in Facebook ads that weren't targeted. In my final bid for good will of these students, I even went around to the college unions in Dublin at Christmas and gave them all some chocolate hampers, spending hundreds. Then, I never followed up with an email. Thinking about it now, I'm not even sure I gave them flyers or let them knew who I was. I remember in one TU Dublin campus, I ended up in the student union office but suddenly a severe bout of anxiety (students are scary). I ended up throwing the sweets and legging it out of there, muttering something about the bus timetable. I was terrified they might see through my ruse of chocolate-giving that I really was bribing them to book group trips. I could've stayed around for a conversation, I could've told them about my business. They probably still don't know who hell I was.

If a young woman came up to me now, or I spotted her running around to colleges nervously giving them chocolates to make them book group trips (????) I'd be running across traffic to try and stop her.

Nobody wants to see history repeat itself. Whether it's a faux-pas at an interview, a marketing error, or a website glitch, the wrong sales pitch, or a resume typo. It's not only hard to watch someone else fail, but it's cringy and it reminds you of what you were like when you were young and naive. If you decided that some people do want to see history repeat itself, or thrive on other's failure, then remember those people are the ones that aren't getting ahead. So delighted by other's failures, those are the type of people who are not focused on their own failure.

I promise you the people who are successful want to help, they want to make sure you're not doing what we all did when we didn't know better.

3. It doesn't matter who you know, unless you're connecting the right people.

This is a new idea for me and comes from something I read recently. But it's absolutely true. It doesn't matter who you know, unless you're connecting the right people. We all have a name dropper in our lives. Some people who will just do it once, to impress, others will do it so much they're not even sure who they know or don't know anymore. Whether it's the guy at the bar who is old friends with that singer, but really just met him once in the bathroom or the name dropper that seems to know everyone in the city but always eats alone. Connections are great if you have them, and some people do and some people just think they do. But with real connections, as a real person who actually cares about others or the friends that you talk to, when you have a connection that can help somebody- you should give that connection to someone else.

That does of course have to take into account that the people who are connecting should be worthy of the connection. For example, the connection should be someone who has the knowledge that the "conectee" needs, that has the right mindset that they're open to meeting and being introduced to new people and that they wouldn't be cruel to the connectee. On the other hand, the connectee should be someone that you admire, that you want to see get ahead and that you feel is deserving of this introduction.

Imagining that that is the case- do you wonder about how amazing the world would be if everyone leveraged their own network to help others, rather than just themselves? The 'six degrees of Kevin Bacon' theory is a good indicator of the power of connection. It was originally coined by Hollywood movie buffs who claim that nearly every actor in Hollywood will either have worked with the star, or worked with someone who has worked with him during his 25 year career. But could you imagine how many people who you know could know someone else, who knows someone else that could change everything for you?

We could all take over the world, uplifting one another and ourselves at the same time.

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