When I do presentations and/or workshops on networking it’s been pointed out to me that some of the best “aha” moments or learnings that people take away come from the stories that I share. So, the plan is for me to write up these stories in the hopes that they’re helpful or illustrative.
I use fictitious names when I have not asked for or not been given permission to use real names, yet the stories are real.
During the financial crisis of 2008, an acquaintance of mine (I’ll refer to him as John) worked in IT and became laid off. I do not know for certain (no personality test was given) that John’s personality leans toward introversion, but I’d bet $100 that he is. He’d been unemployed for close to 10 months and was complaining about having applied to hundreds of openings, getting rejection letters, hearing nothing or getting some interviews but no job offers. After many interviews and never getting the job, he explained that he was being interviewed by people 10-20 years younger than him that had no where near his experience and talents. Over time he was becoming embittered.
I asked for his resume and said I had connections in several of the local companies in my industry and would be happy to send his resume in to them. His response was something like this: oh the networking approach, well I think that’s cheating. In an idealized world, I see the point, and it would be nice if everyone were unbiasedly judged/evaluated on their resume. But we’ve all seen good and bad resumes, which is one way in which recruiters judge/evaluate candidates. Recruiters and hiring managers use a variety of criteria to evaluate candidates: resume content and layout, experience, personality, references, etc.
Networking is most definitely not cheating; it’s a requirement. I explained to John that networking isn’t cheating – I do not get him the job because I sent his resume to someone I know. Me, sending his resume to someone I know just gets his resume lifted out of the pile and gets it a second or maybe third look. Now the resume carries a reference, an additional factor giving it more credence. Chris Matheus or whoever sent the resume to their friend serves as a background check. Getting the resume lifted out of the pile does not get John the job – it gives him a better shot at getting an interview. He still has to “get” the job, still has to interview (without the embittered chip on his shoulder) and interview well.
Building a network of contacts is a key element in managing your career. It needs to be nurtured, maintained and expanded. Remember networking is a reciprocal endeavor, you must be helpful to those in your network if you are going to ask for their help.