Career not working? Try networkingBY KEVIN RYAN
“It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
This piece of business wisdom first appeared almost a century ago; and, unfortunately, the name of its creator has been lost along the way. Its early use was amongst tradespeople and shipyard workers where the tone was cynical and the inference that your connections were more important than any qualifications you might have.
In today’s world, is this still true?
The answer is yes…and no. In fact, to be relevant today, the quote should be modified to: “It’s what you know AND who you know."
Today, your qualifications are essential to getting the right job – but unless you have the right connections, you may not find out about the job in the first place!
Sixty percent of job vacancies in the United Sates are not filled by traditional means, but by networking and other informal contacts. Harvard sociologist, Mark S. Granovetter, author of Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers, claims that ‘informal contacts’ account for almost 75% of all successful job searches.
In a close-knit business environment like Singapore, this figure is likely to be higher.
While formal networking events can be worthwhile, don’t discount the value of your existing contacts. They know you and trust you and are more likely to refer you to their contacts.
Sometimes, it’s just a case of letting them know about you.
Twelve years ago, when I was starting my own training business, I was struggling to make the right contacts in a new industry. Then, I mentioned my change of career in a chat with some members of my golf club. One lady whom I’d known through the club for years said, “Why didn’t you mention this sooner? I’m a training broker and I’ve been looking for someone who trains in these areas for months!”
Over the next two years, she was my biggest client.
Anyone who has been to a networking function has experienced it. You ask the obvious opening question, “So, what do you do?” Ten minutes later your eyes are glazing over as their answer continues on long after you’ve lost interest.
Waffling on about yourself for ages is easy. Encapsulating what makes you unique in a short sharp and memorable way is extremely difficult which is why you should be prepared for whenever anyone does ask you that obvious opening question.
Think about how you might answer in a way that does you justice.
If a long answer will risk boring them, then how short should it be? Be guided by the news media. The average ‘sound bite’ (edited excerpt put to air) that is used by the media today is slightly under eight seconds.
This is how long they have determined that it takes to get a message across. Try creating your own ‘sound bite’ – that’s around twenty words.
“I’m a business analyst with a particular interest in green technology – not just to save money, but also to generate income.”
“I have degrees in IT and psychology which I believe have equipped me well for a position in high-tech sales.”
This includes those events tagged as networking events and also events where networking – while not the primary purpose – is encouraged. This includes seminars, charity or community events.
With formal networking functions – which generally take place on a regular (weekly, monthly) basis – be prepared to commit to several visits before you assess the value.
The regulars will be used to seeing the ‘oncers’ come and go; and you will notice that they are much more inclusive when you show you’ll come back.
Kevin Ryan, an international speaker , workshop leader and author with Training Edge International. He is a business communication expert specialising in the areas of employee and client engagement, sales, humour
intelligence and presentation skills.