It is not What You Know, It is Who You Know.

I have heard this statement said in a number of occasions. In one comedy movie, the teacher instructs one of the young boys to take the assignments she gives them seriously because a good education is the key to success. The young boy disagrees sharply that his brother always advises him that it is not about what you know but rather who you know.

In an interesting twist of turn, the teacher asks the young man who his brother knows, a question the lad answers confidently that his brother knows nobody and is the very reason he is jobless at the moment. It is quite unfortunate of him but that is the reality of the matter.

In other instances, this statement finds real time applications and means more than the ‘who’ we literally think to be implied in the statement. A number of people always think that their misfortunes are brought about by the fact that they don’t know any big man in government or in a senior position in the big companies. In this case their life is about favor and not the input you put into it. It is unfortunate that at some point this is the sad reality but there is a positive side to this statement.

In Africa, the meaning of this statement is perhaps very different from what it may be meaning elsewhere. At the slightest mention of this statement, our minds click of corruption, embezzling of public funds, misappropriation of public resources for personal and close family gains. In Europe perhaps, it may mean how connected an individual is to ensure there is seamless processes when getting things done using the right channel.

Here is an example. If you not well connected, you will go to the banking hall and start taking receipts and queueing before you get service. To others, they will make a phone call and have their bankers ready so that they come in, transact and business is over. In another case, you look forward to importing some stuff, lacking a connection may mean starting the process from point zero. In case of a connected individual, a few phone calls to the right individuals will do the magic. Mark you there is no favors here, it is about making things done in a smart way.

While reading at some of the things considered before an individual is approved to be CEO for example, besides the academic qualifications, experience and international exposure, who you know matters a lot. This is where contacts and networks come in. In this case the panel sourcing the right individual to sit as the top executive is not interested per se with the network in-house, nay, rather they are interested with connections outside the confines of the company and on the international scale.

Who you know matters a lot beside what you know. Photo courtesy of

For instance one needs to have trusted individuals whom he can reach out to handy in times of quick and responsive decision making. At this level, confining our thinking to the kickbacks and favoritism mentality ends up distorting the positive part of this statement. Well, I was wondering for a long time if this statement would ever have any positive connotation until I sat down to reflect on it deeply. Perhaps it could mean better for our salvation than our personal endeavors.

For business success, the ‘who’ you know includes financiers, other industry leaders, government officials as well as board members. The reason for this is to ensure one is always cushioned against any eventualities that might arise and that may need a quick intervention which ought to be sought within the shortest time possible. In other cases it helps for the connections to share any opportunities they notice that are very relevant to you.

I laughed the other day when I realized there had been opportunities open and one in which I fitted squarely well. But then they had long expired because I wasn’t well connected to be alerted to make myself available and participate in them. The power of connections mean you are in the know how almost all day long.

 Why the ‘what’ you know at times backfires is that you may be so much learned but lack personal development in your resume and one which is mostly developed through wide exposure. So contacts and wide networks help a lot in our development and growth. Mentorship is a very critical aspect for young people trying to find a niche in a very competitive world. To get the best mentorship, one needs to have wide connections and know who the individuals of value are. Only then can one make all the difference we so much desire.

If we look forward to growing in our areas of endeavor and succeed in the various undertakings we engage in, what we know is not enough. We ought to widen our networks daily after which we will be able to grow every moment in our lives. Growth ought to be wholesome with our academic qualifications being one of them. Experience too is very important but it is should be widespread.

Make it your life mission to widen your contacts as often as possible so that when opportunity knocks, you will be able to bag it up because you were the most connected one beside all of you, contestants, having excellent resumes, experiences and leaderships abilities.

Get well connected and you can change the world!


Copyright @ 2019

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Politics, Policy, Technology, Current Affairs, Opinion, Agriculture, Energy, Education, Entrepreneurship, Governance, International Emerging Issues, Society, and culture. For featuring, promotions or support write to us at
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