You’ve heard it all before: It’s all about who you know. You have to put yourself out there. You need to build your network.
So, needless to say, it has been interesting to see the counterpoint to this old adage presented in articles such as ‘Networking Tips for Contrarians’ and ‘99% of Networking is a Waste of Time.’ These pieces brought up many good points, some of which warrant further development.
Networking is a big part of my job. If I don’t have the right connection with the right person who trusts my judgment enough to interview a candidate I like, then I need to find someone who does. That’s part of the reason we operate as a group.
I can’t be everywhere and I can’t know everyone and, as hard as it is to admit this even to myself sometimes, not everyone is going to like or trust me. So the more people with whom I have a positive, trusting relationship, either my own or by proxy through a colleague, the more our candidates will benefit. It seems pretty simple and it is the reason all of us at Kinney spend a fair amount of time every year on the road cultivating our “friendship garden.”
But here’s the thing we try to emphasize to our candidates at Kinney Recruiting: networking can be hard, and we get that. It’s also not for everyone — for an introvert, hearing s/he won’t find a job unless s/he networks is probably pretty terrifying. Not only that, but it just doesn’t seem fair.
An extrovert feels comfortable striking up a conversation with a stranger, attending events where they don’t know anyone, or reaching out to an old acquaintance. He or she feels comfortable with that because s/he has had enough positive feedback in the past for having behaved in an extraverted way to overcome the inevitable rejection that comes along with networking occasionally. To an introvert, however, those scenarios may induce sweaty palms, anxiety or extreme stress, and it’s hard to make friends in that condition.
That’s where recruiters come in. It’s our job to find the right people for the job, regardless of their introverted or extroverted nature. It’s our job to take the rejection. But believe me when I say that finding a job isn’t always fair — by no means do the most qualified candidates always get selected. As recruiters, we just want to make sure everyone gets a fair chance, and sometimes there are certain things candidates can do to help themselves out. Call it practice techniques.
First, allow yourself to meet people organically. Networking events can be helpful if you have the right personality. You have to be memorable in a positive way, though, and (usually) you have to be aggressive to make that happen. But it’s hard to be aggressive and memorable in a positive way. Successful networking at a large event is for experts only.
In any case, think about what stands out in your mind more: a conversation you had at a networking event through some forced engagement or a conversation you had for 20-30 minutes with a stranger on a plane or just in a chance encounter at a coffee shop.
I’m not saying that every time you’re in line at Starbucks you should start chatting with the person in front of you. I’m just saying, if the opportunity presents itself to strike up a conversation or allow one to be struck up with you, don’t just brush it off.
For example, what kind of traveler are you? Do you immediately put your headphones on as soon as you sit down on a plane? If so, try not doing that next time. I’ve made many connections on planes, at restaurants and just standing in line for a show. One client of our company is a guy I met on a plane — he was flying commercially for (he said) the first time in five years. He was on his way to Fiji. He owns (outright) a chemical company that does several hundred million dollars per year in revenue. It pays to be friendly, so even if it’s not in your nature, try not to cut conversations short unnecessarily.
Another idea that the above articles touched on is that second chances are worth fighting for.
People make mistakes, and first impressions aren’t everything. There have been numerous times when a candidate hasn’t been placed, but because they built a relationship with the people at the firm, they ended up working in the office a few years later.
The point is that second chances are there for a reason. My advice is just to stay in touch with interviewers. Connect on LinkedIn. Reconnect every few months or so. Extend an offer for coffee or send a quick question about something they could offer advice about. Maybe you have a new job, but that’s not to say that you’re going to stay there forever. Keep in touch and maybe you could wind up at that firm in the future.
Overall, networking is tricky and that’s why we’re here. We do as much of the work for candidates as we can. We’ll call the right people and make sure we get your name out there. We work hard to develop our relationships so that we can leverage them for the best candidates.
But every now and then, you have to do something good for yourself. Maybe it’ll be our connection that gets you the job, or maybe it’ll be yours.