Some entrepreneurs and leaders might see networking as a double-edged sword. On one hand, there’s a chance for a mutually beneficial relationship, while on the other, a relationship wherein only one benefits. How do you get more of the former rather than the latter? Billy Dexter believes it boils down to one simple intention.
Billy Dexter is a partner at Heidrick and Struggles, a leading worldwide executive search firm, and author of Making Your Net Work: Mastering the Art and Science of Career and Business Networking. An inspiring speaker with years of experience in talking about networking, Billy has unlocked the secret to genuine connections that go beyond benefiting business, but also benefit one’s personal and emotional well-being.
In this episode, Billy Dexter shares with us his rags to riches story, how to network intentionally and deliberately, and how one decision changed his whole life.
Facing Rejection and Breaking the Cycle
Billy shares how he was rejected by several schools when applying for college before even finding a small window of opportunity. “After rejections start, it’s easy to go, ‘You know what, man? I’m done. I just give up, man. Fourth rejection letter, y’all going to be the same way. I’m not even going to open the rest. When the envelopes show up, I’m just going to throw them in the fire pit. I’m not going to look at the rest of them.’ What if you wouldn’t have opened the twelfth?”
There were so many chances for Billy to just succumb to the cycle of poverty that his family had fallen into. And while he didn’t know what he wanted, he knew exactly what he didn’t want and used that desire to break the cycle to power through rejection and disappointment.
The Right Choice Can Change Everything
Billy’s educational background is unique in that growing up, he had nobody in his family, or even in his neighborhood, that stressed the importance of education. As a result, going to college was a foreign idea for him. If you don’t have people around you to set an example or show you a certain path, the option might not even come up as a possibility for you. It’s hard to go after something you have no experience with.
Billy, however, set his mind to this strange idea of going to college. “Getting that degree changed everything for me. Because I now saw everything was in front of me. Anything was possible. So many people told me I wasn’t college material. Not only did I get a bachelor’s degree, but I got a masters degree from Michigan State.”
This decision of going to school changed the course of Billy’s life and opened him up to a new wave of possibilities.
Make Great Connections
Billy emphasizes how we are all in and out of networks all the time – at the office, in the subway, on the streets, at a party. What makes connections different is when they are intentional and deliberate. This is what differentiates passing connections from the ones that last, and that eventually benefit everyone involved. Billy says in order to connect this way, you just have to ask yourself one question, “What can I do to help?”
“Put together a strategy and a process around making those connections and being intentional and deliberate… Network to give, not to get. Everyone has something to give, whether it’s just your time, sending an email, accompanying someone on something, or connecting them with another person.”
To listen to the full podcast, go to Episode 11: Making Your Net Work: Mastering the Art and Science of Career and Business Networking with Billy Dexter