We’re all members of certain affiliations or groups and one way to think about what that membership means is through how you were selected for that group.
For institutions like college, grad school, a Fortune 500 company, a startup accelerator, even a fraternity/sorority, you were probably selected by a committee. There were a group of people who are in charge of choosing new members – admissions, recruiting, partners. Because there is typically a set of required attributes or performance criteria and you are compared against a pool of applicants, your membership can be a signal to the outside world. When you work at Google (or graduated from Penn State, or were also Sigma Nu) and meet someone who has that same affiliation, you are more inclined to like and trust that person. Other people may associate certain things good or bad to you.
There’s some borrowed trust when you are part of a committee-selected group but it’s also likely to be a pretty large group and so that trust only goes so far. I’ll be honest, I don’t like someone that much more just because they are a Stanford alum.
Then there are curator selected groups. This might anything from a birthday party to small speaker series to a wedding to a themed event. I know a number of entrepreneurs who regularly host intimate events (often dinners, sometimes drinks) where everyone is selected and known by the host.
In these events, the group is smaller, and more in the current moment. Also it’s unlikely that the outside world knows or cares about this affiliation. But the connections you make here are instantly closer. If you are in a wedding party, you are instantly bonded and have many reasons to like and trust the other people in the party. Same for being a guest on a panel.
A lot of people focus their time on earning a place at committee selected affiliations. Obviously where you go to school and work matter when it comes to the kinds of people you’ll meet and the connections you build. But don’t forget about the curator selected groups too. A few deep relationships often do much more for your career and life than a pile of contacts.