Casey Harrison

The advice I heard from Uncle Bob echoes to this day

When I told my family way back in high school I wanted to go into sports reporting, the best advice I’ve ever got came from Uncle Bob.

Uncle Bob’s message was very clear: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” But what the hell makes him qualified? Well, he’s by far the most successful person in my family, graduating as a letter winner for Indiana’s basketball program then going on to a long, illustrious career as a coach at the college and professional level before retiring as a scout for the Miami Heat. And so far, his wisdom has held true.

Especially in the career field. It’s what Professor Haimerl has preached and what the Michigan State School of Journalism has worked so hard at establishing a network of connections so finding jobs after graduation isn’t a painstaking endeavor.

Much of the same was John Hill’s message when he spoke to our class last week. Hill, the current vice president of networks for the startup launcher TechStars and a MSU J-school graduate. He emphasized the importance of networking, which is fitting seeing he used to operate the MSU alumni network and later was employed by LinkedIn, arguably the most important website for establishing professional connections.

However, just because you know somebody, it doesn’t mean you’re qualified for the job: Uncle Bob’s rule of thumb will only get your resume to the top of the stack. Hill emphasized the importance of using LinkedIn and its search tools, like searching for connections via alma mater by location, company, or other criteria and by reaching out to them can make a world of difference when getting a job. But Hill also told us the most effective way of making a connection is through face-to-face interaction, or even a simple phone call, but seldom are reliable networks build on emails or instant messages.

Also last week, Professor Haimerl introduced us to freelance journalist Julianne Pepitone, who was once the chief business correspondent for NBC News and a former staffer at CNNMoney.

Pepitone told us she had been freelancing for several years now, and the best way to maintain professional relationships is through kindness and personality. She mentioned how thanking editors who hired her for giving her the assignment among being nice to everyone that crosses your path can open doors down the future, and sometimes writers, especially freelancers, can grow to be egotistical and hard to work with.

Pepitone said once while at NBC, she always smiled and waved while crossing paths with an editor in another department. When she left NBC to do her own thing, that same editor came to her for work.

It’s not what she knew — though she’s qualified to work on anything from electrical engineering to the economy — it’s who she knew.

After listening to professionals give the same advice about establishing connections, it leaves me the question: Where did Uncle Bob learn that from?

One thought on “The advice I heard from Uncle Bob echoes to this day

  1. I like how you pointed out that while networking is invaluable, it can only get you so far– you still need to be knowledgeable about what you’re doing and work hard. I think it can be easy to forget that when we’re constantly being told as college students that it’s only about who you know. The what you know is important too.


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