Talentworks Career Guide 2008

What Does 'Networking' Really Mean?

Ask Brad: Here Are the Myths Associated With Networking and This Is What It Really Is

By Published on .

"Networking is the key to getting a new job."

"You have to network your way to the top of your company."

"You won't get anywhere without networking."

Networking. We hear it over and over as the best way to get ahead. But what does it really mean, and how do you do it?

First, let's talk about what it is not.

MYTH NO. 1: Networking is simply getting a job because you know someone.

You: "I know Darren Kapelus -- he's a big shot at Ogilvy. He said you'd give me a job."

Recruiting director: "Of course I will. You're hired. We'll see you on Monday morning at 9. I'm assuming $125,000 will work for you as your new account-executive salary."

Brad Karsh
Brad Karsh is president of JobBound, a career-consulting company, and author of 'Confessions of a Recruiting Director.' He spent 15 years at Leo Burnett in Chicago.
That's not how networking works. Networking is about tapping into connections you have to help you get the opportunity to get a job. When they say that 66% of people get jobs through networking, it doesn't mean that two-thirds of people were handed their jobs because they just happened to know someone. It means someone helped them get the interview or get their résumé noticed by human resources.

Here's the deal -- at larger agencies, especially: The recruiting department is flooded with résumés. It's not uncommon for a company to get 400 to 500 résumés for a single job. As a result, there's no way to interview all of the qualified applicants. There might be 60 or 70 people in the pile who could do the job.

So when looking to hire someone, recruiting directors need help. That's where networking comes in. Usually on top of the stack of 500 résumés sits another pile of 10 or so résumés from people in the organization who have recommended a candidate.

Now, just because your résumé is in the pile doesn't mean you're guaranteed a job -- or even an interview. But the fact that you come "prescreened" by someone at the organization dramatically enhances your chance of getting that interview. Now instead of being one of 500, you're one of 10. I like those odds a lot better.

At smaller places, the opposite is sometimes the case. Without a dedicated recruiting department and a huge presence, often someone at the company says, "Hey, we need a new planning director. Does anyone know anyone?"

In either scenario, having that connection is your key to landing a job. So how can you make sure your résumé gets into the hands of the hiring manager or recruiting director?

MYTH NO. 2: You need to know some heavy hitter or the HR director to network.

In order to network, you just need someone -- anyone -- in the company to pass on your résumé to HR. It doesn't need to be an employee in the same department you want to work in, and it doesn't need to be a senior executive.

In fact, when I worked at Leo Burnett, I actually preferred recommendations from more-junior employees. Let's be honest, the CEO's country-club friend's daughter's college roommate probably hasn't been appropriately vetted by the CEO. The account executive's buddy who has worked at a competitive agency is probably a much better candidate. Just make sure you find someone at the company to pass along your résumé.

MYTH NO. 3: I don't know enough people to network.

Oh, yes, you do. It's called six degrees of separation. Sure, you may not know anyone at BBDO, but does anyone you know know someone who works there?

You have more connections than you think. If there's a company you're dying to work for, make sure you start talking to anyone you know to find the connection. Don't forget your college career center -- even if you graduated years ago. And don't be shy about using LinkedIn or even Facebook to find contacts.

So now that we've dispelled a few myths about networking, how do you go from getting a name to getting a job?

How to do it
The first step is to reach out to your contacts. Some may be old acquaintances, and others may be friends of friends. Call them on the phone or shoot them e-mails. Ask them for 30 minutes to talk about their careers or jobs. Remember, you're not asking for a job. Make it as easy as possible for them. Be flexible on time, go to their office or volunteer to chat over the phone if that works better for them. The key is just to make the connection.

When you do meet them -- even though you're not asking them for a job -- remember that they are evaluating you. Act professionally and be on your best behavior. When the meeting is over, you can ask them if they know of any openings or anyone else to talk to within their company or at another one.

Don't think your work is over once you've met. You've heard that when it comes to getting a job, it's not what you know, but who you know. To some extent, that's true. But my belief is that it's not just what you know or who you know but also when you know them.

You might meet people who think you're great but just don't have an opening for you right now. Don't assume you're still at the top of their lists three months or even three weeks later. They meet a lot of people and have a lot on their minds.

Send them thank-you notes and stay in the loop. Shoot them e-mails or call every couple of weeks. Now, don't become a stalker, but there's something to be said for a little persistence to keep you top of mind.

Try it at work too
Networking isn't just a great way to get a job at a new company, it's a great way to move up in your organization.

In many ways, the same concepts about networking your way to a job also apply to the office. Think about it: When it comes time to decide who is going to become the next VP or who is going to get the big promotion, opinions, biases and relationships all play a big role.

Remember, it's not just your boss or your director making the call. Often, especially for bigger promotions and decisions, it's an executive or management team. If nobody knows you, your chances of scoring that next big assignment are dramatically lower.

I'm not suggesting you spend your entire day campaigning in front of management, but don't be afraid to create relationships with people outside of your team. Go to the company outings and happy hours, set up a lunch with one of the senior executives and even volunteer to work on that extra pro bono assignment or new-business pitch. By getting out there, you make yourself known and not just another name on a sheet of paper.
Most Popular