Networking – Who Do The People You Know, Know?

Networking with Career Incite

When I was working with classes of Co-op students, I would ask them how many thought that their roommates knew what their major was. Almost everyone put up their hand. However, less than half put their hand up when I asked if they knew what their roommate was taking in school. I asked them to check with their roommates. When I asked them in the next class how many of them had been wrong in either case, at least a third of the room put up their hand. And, almost all admitted that the majority of their friends, family and acquaintances did NOT know they were looking for a Co-op work term (a job) for the following semester.

Who Do You Know?

It has been said that the average person knows approximately 250 people. Well, the 250 people you know each likely know 250 people, who each know 250 people and so on. Networking is simply talking to people you know and making connections with people they know. For example, this can happen as you go about your day-to-day activities, at formal networking events, or in lots of situations in-between.

An Illustration of Networking

This reminds me of an early 80’s television commercial for shampoo. A woman liked the particular shampoo so much that she told two friends, and then they told two friends, and so-on, and so-on. The image of the woman was duplicated and then multiplied accordingly, until lots of small, identical images of the woman filled the screen. That commercial is still referenced as an illustration of networking and the exponential power of duplication.

You Have the Choice

You may have also been asked if you were given a choice to receive one million dollars one time or a penny doubled every day for 30 days which one would you choose? If you have not encountered this, I encourage you to do the math: day one (1) + day two (1×2) + day three (2×2) + day four (4×2) + day five (8×2) +day six (16×2) + day seven (32×2) + day eight (64×2), and so-on up to day number thirty.

Your Networking Options

Now, think about the people you know: in your neighbourhood, from school, at work, at church, clubs, sports teams, at the dentist/doctor/dry cleaner, your family, etc. These are your network. How many people do they know that you don’t? And, how many of the people you know, know what you can do and the fact that you are looking for a job? The person who lives next door may or may not have noticed that you are home in the day. Chances are, if they are working themselves, that they have not; or they may assume you are on vacation or are one of those “lucky” people who can work from home.

You might know the name and a bit of information about the bus driver or the coffee shop attendant you see every day, but do they know anything about you? They may have a friend or relative in charge of hiring at a company where you would love to work. Therefore, you need to include networking in your job search strategies!

It Doesn’t Have to be Complicated

I know what some of you are thinking: people don’t what to hear your sob story or you don’t want to keep calling your friends asking if they know anyone who’s hiring. However, it can be as simple as sending a Facebook message or giving a quick phone call to someone you have not talked to for a while and saying something like “Hey, it’s been ages since we’ve talked. I have been really busy with my job search. What’s new with you?” You have either just told them, or reminded them, that you are looking for a job and put yourself at the top of their mind. If they run across an opportunity in the near future that may be up your alley, they are now more likely to think of you.

Mindful Networking Opportunities

An Engineering student came to me at the beginning of the final year of his undergrad program. He had decided during the summer, that following graduation, he wanted to begin his career in the nuclear industry. It just so happened that there was a meeting scheduled the following week of a group of companies who were all involved in, or connected to the nuclear industry. They were gathering to discuss a common problem. With a little reassurance that the worst thing that could happen is they’d say no, he contacted the organizer and asked to attend as an observer. He was allowed to attend and also invited to stay for the wine and cheese event afterward.

Meeting New People

This was a huge networking opportunity. He created a calling card and an elevator speech in preparation. He took notes and wrote down questions during the presentations and formal discussion. During the wine and cheese, he made a point of meeting as many people as possible and gathering each of their business cards. He promptly made notes about each person and what he had chatted with them about. The following day, he wrote individual thank you notes to each person and mentioned something specific to jog their memory as to who he was. A couple of weeks later, he sent each person a follow-up email, wishing them a happy Thanksgiving and attached his resume in-case they should happen to hear of a future opportunity. In addition, he asked if they minded that he stay in-touch.

And, as long as they did not say no, he did just that – stayed in-touch. He would email periodically, mentioning an article he thought they might find interesting, mention a recent unique project he completed, or to ask a question. He also wished them happy holidays and congratulated them on any personal or company accomplishments he found out about in the news.

Staying in Touch

Then, in the first few days of January, he sent an updated resume, reminding them that he would be graduating in April. Only a few people responded to any of his emails along the way. However, three people contacted him in February to arrange an interview and discuss possible upcoming opportunities. By mid-March, he had two fabulous job offers in his desired field, without ever applying to a single job posting.

Many people say that it’s not what you know, but who you know that is important when you are job searching. I would argue that both are important. Still, you absolutely must make sure all the people you know, know who you are, what you can do, and the fact that you are looking for a job. You also want to make sure they know how to contact you and understand the best way to connect you to the people they know whenever they hear of an opportunity.


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