Networking to get a new job

December 2005

Network of peopleRichard Platts has changed jobs four times in six years, all secured through personal contacts. In this article, he explains how to make the most of relationships and what advantages they can bring.

Networking is one of those things that everyone understands but can be hard to grasp. It’s about building and maintaining a web of contacts for potential mutual benefit. If that sounds cynical then I suspect that you’re not looking at it in the right way.

Networking is a section of the continuum of personal relationships that starts at one extreme with acquaintance (I don't know her but we met on a training course) through to true love and undying emotional attachment. Somewhere in the middle is the personal relationship which is stronger than acquaintance and less emotional than true friendship. We can network with acquaintances and with friends and loved ones, although in the latter case, it can get a bit complicated.

Relationships must offer mutual benefits

I’d also stress the '...mutual benefit' phrase above. Any relationship I have with another based on what I think they can do for me is doomed – my motives will be transparent from the first contact. I approach networking contacts with the view that I may be able to help them at least as much as they can help me. If you don't believe me, read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

So there is a bunch of people out there with whom I have some sort of mutually beneficial relationship, except most of them never have done anything special for me nor have I done anything for them. So why have the relationship?

Well, for example since I turned 50 years of age it's become progressively more time consuming to change jobs through the normal response to an advertisement. Who cares that everyone professes not to be ageist, many employers are – fact of life. However, I’m now 56 (almost) and in the last six years I've changed jobs, including interim positions, four times and had a number of other offers of work.

Each one has come via someone I knew either as a friend or as an ex-colleague. In every case they made the call to me rather than me seeking help or favours. Similarly, I have from time to time been able to help them directly or indirectly, either unprompted or in response to a direct request.

Recruitment is often by word of mouth

They say that most job opportunities are not advertised. I believe that is true. So how do people get recruited into them? Through word of mouth, otherwise known as networking. It's one of the ways that recruitment consultants do their job, and if they can make a career out of it then it’s probably worth a try.

How is it done? Actually it's all very natural and intuitive. In the normal course of my working day I make calls and drop emails to people. As a matter of course I make my communications as pleasant as circumstances allow. A sense of humour is important here. And naturally a social acquaintance develops. It also helps to be a bit of a gossip: 'have you heard…?' 'did you know that…?' 'I went for a drink with…'.

So, without contrivance, normal social intercourse becomes a friendly experience. And we all want to do what we can for friends. In time the relationship develops and trust grows. You can help each other a thousand ways through exchange of information, and apart from the cost of the call, it's free.

Check out networking opportunities with BCS branches, specialist groups, international sections, and forums.