A Personal Perspective on Making Career Networking Work
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.