My Greatest ‘It’s Who You Know’ Moments So Far

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What’s This All About?

When I was younger, I always heard “It’s not about what you know; it’s about who you know,” and was frightened by that. I did well at school but wasn’t really fond of speaking to new people, so really thought my life prospects would be limited. My dad was the complete opposite and seemingly knew the whole black population of Nottingham when I grew up. In the end, things fell into place. However, it was probably just because that saying is true.

These are the biggest ‘It’s Who You Know’ moments of my life thus far:

 

17th Birthday

Nottingham people may remember a club called Isis from about 20 years ago. It was run by a guy called James, and it’s the venue where I attended my first paid concert. Mario performed, while he was working his “Crying Out for Me” single, apparently for a 14+ audience. By the next year, that same venue was now a strip club called Señiorita’s, and my dad decided that’s how I needed to celebrate my 17th birthday.

Thanks to a good connection (my dad’s friend working on the door at this strip club) I could slide on through and have an eye-opening welcoming to a world I’m not sure I’ll see again. A number of wild things happened that evening, but the one thing I’m not going to forget is the look I got when I saw a girl from school working the bar.

 

1st Job

I took my time getting a job. I came up with so many reasons why it was too early up until I got my first one (legit not until I was 19). How it came about was a tale of great timing, writing excellence and knowing the right person. So it goes like this: I was writing album reviews for a website (which closed down late 2017). I wrote loads of them – over 1,000 – and got a reputation for my knowledge in Hip Hop and R&B.

It was a community site where you could message other users. Among the many people I spoke to for the couple of years I was on the site would be my first employer. Once day they let me know they had their own site, and invited me to be the Junior Editor there. I took on the role remotely for a few months, before I moved to London and I earned myself a 9-to-5. Everything that followed was thanks to a connection on a review website.

 

Every Job Thereafter (Well, the Only Two)

I have never had a job interview that resulted in a job. The two role that followed on from my one at the music website came as a result of being around people that needed help, which developed into a full-blown employment opportunity. I walked into the jobs. The first was decided over a Chinese on Tooley Street. The other was a series of two faux-interview chats to satisfy corporate HR needs. I can’t explain how grateful I was for securing each of them, as they both taught me loads about a) the world b) people c) how the world works d) how I want the world to work for me.

To clarify, I have had job interviews – all during the redundancy which you’ll hear about in a second – but none of them resulted in anything. The handful I had gave me all the inspiration I needed for what would happen a few months later, when I was at the hiring end of things, dashing CVs out for spelling mistakes and enduring awkward interviewees.

 

Redundancy Lifelines

When I was made redundant from a digital marketing agency in 2016, I had invaluable help from two people. One was the former owner of the agency I previously worked at. He had disappeared a few months before it went under. Once he heard it had collapsed in altogether, he threw me a freelancing lifeline that meant I maintained my salary for the three months I was out of work.

The other person who helped was the agency’s former accountant. He’s got a way of following money, and noticed I wasn’t the type to settle on regular work cash. In the immediate aftermath of the company’s downfall, he demanded I meet him at a café on Telegraph Hill so he could convince me to set up a limited company and make my side projects official. The combination of the redundancy pay out and freelance money meant I had the funds to develop businesses that would allow me to quit work (and London) two years after I was made redundant.

 

So What Does That Teach Us All?

All it teaches me is that I was lucky at the end of my teen years and up to now. I’ve got to make my own luck from here onwards, because I swear I can sit happily in my yard and avoid the world for the foreseeable future. For real though, other people can and will make things happen for you. Sticking to yourself only works up to a point, beyond which relationships and connections will take you to different places.

I couldn’t have played the last decade any better, but I’ve got to give so much credit to the people that helped me along the way.

 

*Listen to Ryan Leslie*