Case study: Job networking in unexpected places
Networking has proven to be essential for job search success. The old expression “It’s not what you know, but who you know” is fundamental to job seekers. Think about it – if you are an employer and could only hire one person, who would it be? Chances are it is someone who would come highly recommended to you by another trusted person. Networking opens doors! But what if you are not a good networker? What if you shudder at the thought of having to attend a networking event? We need to start thinking about networking in a whole new way!
Let me tell you tell you a brief story to illustrate my point. Over the holidays I went to Montreal on the VIA train and sat beside a young professional guy. After 20 minutes or so, we struck up a conversation and during small talk I asked him what he does for a living. His name is James and he works in the marketing department for the Toronto Argonauts. Cool!
I’m always curious how people got their jobs, so I asked him more details. James told me the most unbelievable story. He said that one day years ago, he was on the Go Train and noticed a guy working on official documents with the CFL logo at the top of them. Being an avid football fan, James wanted to know more. Without appearing to be intrusive or nosy, he tapped him on the shoulder and asked the gentleman if he worked for the CFL. As it turns out, the gentleman was the CFL Commissioner.
The Commissioner explained that he often takes the GO Train home so he can get work done. James was in utter shock. They continued to chat for the next 40 minutes, during which James mentioned that he just graduated from university with a degree in commerce. James couldn’t pass this opportunity by, so he took a chance and asked if there was anyone from the Argo’s HR department that he meet with to discuss potential employment opportunities within the organization. The Commissioner offered James his business card.
James followed up over the next couple of days and after some back and forth a job interview was arranged shortly thereafter. James spent a lot of time preparing for the interview, but the Commissioner obviously put in a good word for him. According to James, he landed his dream job.
Some may say it was pure luck, but I see it much differently. What if James didn’t recognize the opportunity? What if he never tapped the stranger on the shoulder to ask a question? What if James didn’t go the extra mile to ask to meet someone from HR? James was aware of his surroundings, passionate about his interests and took the initiative. It paid off in spades.
Job networking is about meeting people. We are all around people every single day, whether it be on the train, at the gym, at a coffee shop, or at a class we are taking. Yes, not everyone will meet a CEO or Commissioner and have what happened to James happen to them, but you never know who you may meet in the most unexpected places – so take a chance when the opportunity presents itself.
From James’ story, here are five traits to adopt to become a better networker:
Be aware – Be aware of your surroundings. Recognize opportunities that may present themselves and don’t be scared to act on them. Open your eyes and see what’s going on.
Be naturally curious – Talk to others. This doesn’t mean you should approach everybody around you. However, be open to striking up a conversation with others you may feel you can connect with, or that seem interesting.
Be sociable – Put yourself in situations where other people will be, not just industry events. It’s not about going through life thinking what others can do for you, but more sharing your thoughts, ideas and passion with others.
Be outgoing – Don’t be afraid to speak up. The worst thing that can happen is you’ll get a brush off.
Be passionate – People like talking to others who are truly passionate about a topic. Talk about things that motivate you. Others will respond.
As you go through life, networking will be the key to opening doors. The more people you are around, the better your chances to meet, discuss and share ideas – exactly what job networking is all about. Good luck!
Kevin Makra is the President of Sentor Media Inc., and founder of DirectoryOfCareers.ca. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.