Growing up, my parents have drilled the importance of good grades into my head and revered it as the sure-fire way to a prosperous future. I, of course, also believed this to be true… Up until my freshmen year in high school. My counselors started telling me that I should get involved in something–anything–because all of a sudden, good grades and high SAT scores aren’t enough to cut it in the real world. Now, it’s not what you know, it’s what you do. My parents did not understand this at all; they saw extracurricular activities as a hindrance that interfered with my studies. Nevertheless, I was allowed to join a club or two as long as I maintained a good GPA.

When I enrolled at FIU, I learned that while having good grades and being involved certainly does give me a bit of an advantage, they can only take me so far if I’m not knocking on the right doors and making friends with the right people. Yet again did I find myself in a situation where I realized I wasn’t doing enough; now, it’s not what you know/do, it’s who you know. I witnessed the power of networking when a peer of mine landed a high-paying sales job after he had opted out of college. Apparently, a good friend of his worked at a nail salon whose regular client was a store manager. The client and his friend were on very good terms; so, when the client mentioned they were hiring, his friend referred him. From there, he went through the regular interview process and was quickly hired for the position. In this case, he knew his friend who knew the store manager.

After discussing all the following statements:

“It’s not what you know, but what you do.”

“It’s not what you know/do, but who you know.”

Let’s talk about “it’s not who you know, but who knows you.” Yes, there is a difference.

You want to be the first person (or at least make the list) that comes to the minds of potential employers when a new position is open. There are so many people out there with the same (or better) qualifications as you vying for the same positions that it’s easy for employers to lose track of who’s who. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a “I know them, but they don’t know me” situation; as far as they’re concerned, you have never even met.

A great way to avert this situation would be to communicate your brand. As Lissy said in her piece Buying Into Your Label, “self-branding is an imperative factor when it comes to being a professional.” Ultimately, it is about the message you send out to others that lets them know who you are. Whatever your brand is, make sure it is memorable, meaningful, and most importantly–you.