Who do you know? Probably quite a few more people than you think.
In a work environment where companies ruthlessly downsize to minimize costs, constantly move people to positions so organizational charts line up regardless of skills, and talk about people development but often don’t, your ability to network will make a critical difference in your ability to succeed as a Cubicle Warrior.
Networking, defined at dictionary.com as “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest” has a poor connotation to me.
It is, so to speak, something that needs to be done with the selfish purpose of benefiting me. I don’t think I’m alone in viewing networking that way.
Yet, networking is critical to the success of a Cubicle Warrior. Here’s what I do for this critical function — and I am not very good at it and would really appreciate other suggestions in the comments.
Networking is natural. Networking should not be something that is a task to be done. The way networking is natural is to have a genuine interest in what other people are doing and how they are doing it. There is nothing there about self-interest; what you do with people should be all about learning – and learning how to help within the context of your job or life.
Networking is about keeping in contact. One of the most difficult things to do in our busy lives is keeping in contact with people we genuinely admire who leave to go to other companies – places where we could also work some day.
What I do to help at least keep in a one-way communication is to send a monthly e-mail that has 4-5 paragraphs and one picture of my wife and I that addresses work, play, travel, and my amateur radio hobby. These are sent to people want to keep in contact with because I admire their work or their life and I want to keep a connection. If a person leaves the company and I admire their work, I always ask for their personal e-mail address and explain this approach on keeping in touch with them.
I get some e-mails back on comments about what is going on from different people different months, but the key is that I am able to provide a quick update on what is going on in my life to people I want to know.
Note that I am not asking them for anything. I just want the connection because of the person.
Networking is changing. Recognizing that people connections are all over the country — or all over the world — businesses have started to spring up that will help search for colleagues or enable the networking process to take place easier. LinkedIn is one example of this, offering connections and services to help individuals stay connected. A better place, in my opinion is over at JibberJobber. Jason has spent some good time and effort building out a site that makes sense for people looking for jobs — or prepping up for when a Warrior needs to change tribes.
Networking requires time. Connecting with people outside of “transactions” — did you finish this, can you do that, and quick chat time — is something that has to be recognized. This is where I fail in using opportunities with people to learn more about them and their work. If we’re always too busy, we’ll never connect in a meaningful way and that is our loss as people who work together.
Try something simple – if you get asked out to lunch, go. Or ask someone to have lunch with you and just learn about what they do or how they approach what they do. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn.
Others can explain the benefits of knowing lots of people when it comes to finding another position.
I just know that I had the chance to interview for positions not through the want ads, not through career management search boards, nor through applying for a position in some alternative way.
I was able to interview because someone I knew told me about the position or suggested to the hiring manager that I should be on the list to interview.