Case study: How to make connections in your field and tap into the hidden job market
Many people hear the word networking and they cringe. “I don’t feel comfortable asking others for a job” and “I’m not good at it” are the two of the more common responses. Many articles attempt to detail the ins and outs of effective networking, but this true story may change your attitude towards networking, what it really entails, and how it can be applied in the real world.
A few weeks ago I was at a party and met an eclectic woman named Rebecca. We were chatting about mutual friends, when the usual question came up – “What do you do for a living?” Rebecca stated that she was a paralegal. One of the down falls of being in the career field is that I am always curious how people got their current jobs, so my interrogation began.
Rebecca told me that she got laid off from a small law firm about a year ago. I commiserated with her about how difficult that period must have been for her. She agreed that it took some time to adjust, but smiled that it didn’t take her long for her to bounce back. Rebecca said that her firm was north of the city and she didn’t know many people at the larger downtown law firms where she wanted to work. “So did you send out lots of resumes?” I asked. “Initially, but that was short-lived.” she replied “I wasn’t getting any responses or traction from this kind of approach.”
“So, what did you do to get your job?” was my next question. Rebecca said that she heard of a place where many lawyer and lawyer types frequented after work. It was at a bar in the downtown core. People would hang out and chat after a long day. Rebecca decided she needed to visit this bar and check it out. Indeed, it was a great place to schmooze with other business professionals.
I asked her, “I don’t understand, you just visited a bar and started chatting with others?” Rebecca laughed, “It’s not that crazy!” She explained that she would get dressed up in business attire (Yes – she went to the effort of putting on business attire just to go to the bar) and would engage others in small talk. Rebecca even quipped that she even determined Thursdays after work to be the busiest, so she set up weekly Thursday bar appointments in her calendar.
After a few weeks of bar visits, she engaged in a meaningful conversation with one woman seated next to her. Her name was Victoria and she was a legal secretary. She had worked for the past 15 years at a well-known law firm in the city. As it turns out, she was also very well connected. “Bingo!” Rebecca said in an excited voice “Victoria was totally cool and we hit it off right away. We shared a lot of similar interests. I asked her all about the various law firms downtown.”
By this time, I was in shock listening to Rebecca. “I met many others too. People just assumed that I worked downtown and was one of them. I was never pushy and just enjoyed the conversation.” she stated “When they asked me what I did for work I told them I was a paralegal that worked for a small firm north of the city and also did some freelance work, which is true.” She didn’t approach the situation as she was unemployed.
The conversation got real interesting when I asked Rebecca “Did you ever think this was a far-fetched idea to land a job?” She replied, “No absolutely not! I didn’t know if a job would come out of it. I went to the bar because I knew I could meet up with other like-minded, successful people in my industry. It was the perfect informal setting for me to connect and learn. People love talking about what they do. I could uncover informal information on companies I could see myself working for.” Rebecca was right. This was pure gold.
As it turns out, Rebecca secured two job interviews a few months later. Of course, her new found friends put in a good word for her. She was subsequently hired at a company she could only dream of having worked at a few months prior. She still frequents the bar to this day, because she says she’s always on the lookout for new opportunities. Rebecca is my new hero.
Rebecca has the right mix of confidence, drive, ingenuity, and determination. Her attitude is contagious! Next time you hear the word networking, think about Rebecca’s story. Her approach may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely inspiring. Thinking of unique ways to connect with other like-minded people in your industry is what networking is all about. You too can make it happen. Good luck!