A Personal Perspective on Making Career Networking Work

Photo Credit: PlusDelta on Flickr

As you may have gathered from my recent post, I am making a career transition– ok, I’m looking for a job, sound better? The process of the search has changed a lot since 2001/2002, the last time I left one job without immediately having another to go to. I don’t necessarily think these differences are due to social media, but more to my own maturity in my approach to my professional relationships.

Of course, social media helps. A lot.

Here are some thoughts on the current state of career networking and job search- through my eyes.

Every job I have ever had, I got through someone I know

I know, people sing the praises of Monster.com or the job board of the moment (actually, maybe they don’t- do they?), but I always found those boards to be resume treadmills of the worst kind; lots of broadcasting and cattle calls. Before I knew I needed a network, I had one, and it worked for me. It was a great lesson, learned more easily than I deserved. How do you start a network, anyway? College student? How about that advisor, interest groups, frats or internships? Lots of people to know and keep up with there.

Fun fact: I got my first job at the end of college because I was napping in my advisor’s office. Students, I recommend trying this method out.

All that stuff about cultivating your network before you need it? Gospel. Do it.

This is where social media forced me to be a lot better at networking than I naturally was. Nearly ten years ago, I discovered I had an accidental network after nearly thirty of us were laid off from the agency I worked for (rhymes with “Forts”). I got lucky- rather than the network of co-workers that only gets you so far, this same network became far-flung against its will, but I still got two jobs out of it.

Since diving into online social networking, that network has grown exponentially, geographically, and in influence. Part of that, of course, is that my work has dovetailed with social media, and some of the people I got to know became rather well-known within the social media world. Lucky me.

The real lesson is- get out there. Network online, Tweet, Facebook, blog- and definitely do a lot of real-world networking, any events you can get to. As my good friend Tim Allik has dubbed it; “meating.” Force yourself to do it if you have to.

Fun fact: I always considered myself shy. Taking on Radio as a major in college (why the heck did I do that, anyway?) forced me out of my shell. Perhaps I just kept going from there. I still don’t consider myself an extrovert, but I am not afraid to communicate, because I know how it helps.

It’s ok to ask for stuff, but oh the things you get if you spend a little time giving.

I don’t think of myself as someone who gives too much. There’s always someone I didn’t help, someone that perhaps I was rude to. But I try to be generous; answer questions here, make introductions there, listen to someone who needs it. What I’m getting at here is that the old saw about gathering your network before you need it works better if you are the helpful one when you don’t need help. Those people helping you come from somewhere, don’t they?

The other thing I have learned over the last several weeks (and more) is that you really learn who your friends are when you need them. Not the “little f” friends that you gather by the dozens or hundreds on Twitter and Facebook, but those truly generous souls that come through for you. I also mean not merely people who pass on job leads or contacts (remarkably, those folks have been legion and I’m not trying to devalue that here), but the smaller circle who become your real source of strength and support.  These are the “Big F” Friends, many of whom you may not know you have right now.

Fun Fact: I said I now know who these “Big F” Friends are. I’m not naming names, because I think I know who they are too.


  1. Great post. You should come and talk at any of the HR conferences I attend. Recruiters/HR just don’t get it – http://www.careerlifeconnection.com/blog/2009/11/18/job-seekers-are-from-mars-recruiters-from-venus/

    Of course, I may not either as I just launched a “job board.” I’m trying to innovate the industry a bit with more SM than just a traditional board…but HR is not an easy ship to turn…

    Good luck and if I can help, shout!

  2. Hi Doug– Good words of advice. I recently came out of a transition time and found social media to be the biggest difference in terms of networking and building a personal brand from the last time I had gone through a search (back in 2001). In fact, all the work I’ve done the past 2 years (consulting and now non-consulting gig) has been a result of social media– connecting through Facebook and blogging primarily.

    I think HR at most companies is far behind the curve in understanding social media to reach out and learn about potential candidates, but at the right type of company (i.e. the type you’d want to work for), this is not the case.

    Good luck with your search & let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

  3. Hi Doug,

    Thanks for the post. I found myself agreeing with much of it as I’m a post-grad who is currently looking for a new job and I often reflect on how different my current job search is vs. the search I conducted when I graduated. My means of going about it are more disciplined and enlightened, but the aid of social media such as twitter and LinkedIn is so strong! I can’t even think of how I searched before these amazing tools came along! Twitter has allowed me to cultivate relationships I wouldn’t have dreamed of being able to before! Thanks for the insight!

  4. Ellen Rossano

    Great post Doug! Seems like you are spot on with all that you’re doing. And don’t underestimate how generous and helpful you are. Best of luck with the job search adventure – I don’t think it will be too long before you land somewhere phenomenal!

  5. Leanne- I worried about giving short shrift to job boards. I actually did get one job offer via Craig’s List once, so I’m not saying it can;t work- but yes, social media is probably a great way to jazz up the HR industry.

    And your post is spot-on- except for the world travel, my path bears some similarities- in that connections get jobs, not applications.

    Gary, meet Leanne. I think she shares your feelings about the HR industry.

    Amy, I believe the increased discipline and enlightenment come with maturity- but you might be surprised at how well you did the job search thing the first time around, without knowing it.

    Ellen- I don;t want anyone to overestimate how helpful and generous they are. Just do it.

  6. Awesome post Doug.
    I lost my job awhile back and my was able to fall back into my network and bounce back pretty quickly. I know what you mean when you talk about your FRIENDS vs. friends. Its great that you are so open about your situation.

  7. Great post. First of all, good luck with your job search! I’m sure it won’t take you long to find a great new gig.

    As far as your stance on networking, and how social media plays into that, I think you’re spot on.

    I was lucky enough to have several people in my own network teach me that early on, and it’s already proved beneficial.

    Meet people as much as possible, give as much as you can, and just put yourself out there. These are the essentials.

    I got my first job through Craigslist, and a standard application process. My hope is that when I one day make a transition, that I can turn to my network instead of a job board.

  8. Great post Doug, you’ve really personalized the process of networking in this post. Revealing something about yourself, and in the process, making the reader want to reach out to you and help. This is the sort of New Journalism post that represents the best of blogging. Very inspiring writing.

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