How Networking Works in the Real World

This morning I went for a cup of tea (ginger lemon) with someone I met on LinkedIn. A true networking meeting.

And it was a networking meeting. We discussed careers and what we could do to better ourselves. She asked how I diversified my client list, and I shared a story. She said, “Have you ever written that story?” and I don’t believe I have, so I shall share it.

This is an example of how networking works in the real world. Yes, you meet people on LinkedIn and have a nice, socially distanced cup of tea with them, but that’s not the only way to network. Here it goes.

Many years ago, I taught Steve in Sunday School. Steve grew up, got a couple of degrees, and a job. We keep in touch via Facebook. One day he messaged me and said, “I have a friend you should write about!”

His friend was Clark Walker, who got a job through Instagram. It was a cool story and I wrote about it and tweeted the story.

Then Sarah Salbu messaged me and said, “Hey, I got a job through Twitter!” And I listened to her story and wrote that up.

Then CBS decided they no longer wished to have my services. (Their loss.) I needed a new client and posted about it on my blog. Sarah messaged me and said, “Hey, I have a friend who works for Skyword. They are always looking for writers!”

And that’s how I ended up writing for Anthem Healthcare, United Healthcare, and others.

See, networking isn’t just about targeting people in your area and hoping that they give you jobs. It’s about making connections with other humans. If I hadn’t taught Steve in Sunday School, would he have reached out to me about his friend Clark? If I hadn’t written about Clark, would Sarah have reached out? If I hadn’t built a professional relationship with Sarah, would she have seen I was looking for new clients?

Sure, you should connect with people in your field. You should follow people on LinkedIn. You should comment on their posts. You should go to conferences and you should accept the occasional virtual cup of coffee over Zoom.

But, you should also live your life. Have a hobby. Act in community theater. Talk with your neighbors. Networking through friendships also yields results. This doesn’t mean you should only make friends with the hope that some day, somewhere, they will help you. You should make friends to have friends. Someday, they may help you or you may help them. Networking goes two ways! But, don’t limit yourself to people within your field. You never know where you may find success.

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6 thoughts on “How Networking Works in the Real World

  1. I’m an old lady and have been working — on and off, mostly on — for almost 60 years. During that time, I have had a number of great jobs. In fact, all of my jobs have been great. Looking back, I realize that every single one of those jobs was also the result of networking, although we didn’t call it that back then. In other words, I never got a job by just finding it in the want ads or making a cold call (or, later, sending out random resumes). Every job I have ever had was the result of someone else’s making a suggestion, or giving me a lead, or — even — recommending me or actually recruiting me. I agree that we should live our lives — as fully and richly as possible — constantly improving ourselves, open to new prospects, and, hopefully, the opportunities will follow.

  2. Dear Evil and grannybunny —

    Solid and helpful article, great follow-on comment.

    Networking (plus informational interviewing) doesn’t “work” for everyone all the time, every time, but I would argue that it is the most efficient and effective way to enter, move through, and thrive in this thing called “the job market.”

  3. Just loved this. Thanks for saying what needed to be said. I think so many times people hear “use your network” and tune out, because they don’t want to be begging their friends for jobs. But this illustrates how things can happen (I hate to use the word organically, but it fits here….).

    1. That is definately how it feels when you are starting your career and people say “use your network.” It takes years and years of working in good companies and having access to solid conferences to start making connections. If you work at a substandard company, then there aren’t honest people you want to keep in your network. If you can’t go to great conferences, then you won’t find like minded people to chat with. I’ve been in my profession for 15 years and only started building a network in the last 4 years.
      And I’ve never been to a “networking event” that wasn’t people selling MLMs and using it as a dating circle.

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