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The phrase "it's not what you know, but whom you know" is often deemed a particularly unsavory one. It reeks of nepotism and cronyism – both largely abhorred by a society that has seen far too much injustice.
But it would be incorrect to say that knowing the right people isn't important. Of course, talent is king. You can't market yourself and not have the talent to back your claims up. However, even with great talent, poor attitude and social ineptness can affect your career negatively.
What you need is to learn networking. This does not mean you befriend people with the intent of "using" them to get your way. Instead, it's a means of getting to know more people in your chosen field, and eventually establishing a symbiotic relationship of mutual support, camaraderie, and assistance. Through a network, you would find opportunities that would have otherwise completely missed you. You'll also find a way to meet more people in the same field, and possibly with the same interests, giving you a wider set of like-minded colleagues and friends.
So let's say you're in the food industry. How networking work for you? Let's take caterers as an example. A caterer needs clients, and you get to show off your catering skills through actually catering for an event. One way of doing so is by catering for friends or family members. They are your de facto network. From friends and family, you can rely on their word of mouth to spread the news about your catering service – provided your service is actually worth promoting. You can't just rely on the kindness of your network.
Having a proper network also means you find out about the latest trade bazaars and fairs. There you can meet foot suppliers and other restaurateurs. This means you are able to broaden your network, get the best deals from other food suppliers and wholesalers. Food suppliers, in particular, can give you the choicest cuts and the freshest produce if you strike up a good enough professional relationship with them. Remember: networking is symbiotic. You're not asking them for things like a freeloader, you're offering them a good deal and a steady business as well.
Some foot suppliers or wholesalers could also introduce you to potential clients. They are now part of your network, and in case someone needs a caterer for their party, they might just recommend you. A network means you all take care of one another, sharing opportunities and great deals.
However, it bears repeating that the network should not be abused. You should treat these people as actual peers, colleagues, and even friends. Something that can easily destroy a network: insincerity. People can spot fakes, especially when it comes to business. Maintain a genuine interest in people; don't just befriend someone because he's a food supplier who can help your business. A network is a good way of improving your business, true, but seeing it as little more than an endless well of freebies will lead to nothing but failure.

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