Nobody can make it out here alone


Independence is a lie. For years we’ve been bombarded with independence and examples of doing it on your own. While the allure of the “self-made man/woman” sounds great and makes for cute ridiculous Internet memes, it totally distorts the reality of a successful career.

To quote poet Maya Angelou:

Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

The dictionary definition of “independent” is “not subject to control by others.” Any business owner will tell you how fatally flawed this is when trying to build a brand or reputation. While you may not punch a clock or write your own checks, your livelihood is very much dependent upon customers who patronize your business. To that end, things need to be mutually beneficial.

Which is to say, interdependent – or, interdependence – is the key to success.

Interdependent is defined as two or more entities “being mutually dependent” on each other. Colleges need students to educate; businesses need customers, and so on. Nobody is totally free from needing someone else – this goes double for those who sign their own checks.

In a recent post at Brazen Careerist, Jeff Archibald suggested that we’d all be better off doing away with the concept of networking for a technique of relationship building that is essentially founded in the idea of interdependence:

Stop thinking of your local business events as “networking opportunities” and start thinking of them as opportunities to help people. Be a giver, not a taker. Change your mindset from a selfish one to an unselfish one. It’ll come back around, trust me.

If you can provide a benefit or helping hand to someone, they’ll remember that down the road when they actually need your services. For example, who do you think the marketing manager will call when they need design services? Designer A, who gave them his card and talked about all the skills he has, or Designer B, who asked the marketing manager about their business and then followed up with a helpful article/lead/Web application that may be of interest to them?

My money’s on Designer B, all other things being equal. We refer a lot of business leads that aren’t good matches for us to other agencies and freelancers, and we send them to the people who helped us out in the past.

In my current role, I get a chance to work with some amazingly talented young people at an amazing institution. I come back to the term interdependence because my role as public information coordinator is useless without cooperation from co-workers. A couple of weeks ago, we got a last-minute visit from a writer at The Atlantic (yes… The Atlantic). By last-minute, I mean a day’s notice. If I hadn’t built good relationships with my co-workers, the reporters’ visit would’ve consisted of me giving a tour of our facilities. I called in a lot of favors – pulling department chairs away from their duties, corralling our president for a couple of hours, pulling students out of class. The visit was a resounding success. The fruits of that effort can be found here.

Whether co-worker, customer or constituent, we are nothing without the teams that help us on the path to success.

Nobody can make it out here alone.


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