Networking: The Payoff Of Persistence


Whether you’re looking for employment or successfully employed, you’ve undoubtedly heard and know the value of networking. That being said, it is surprising that many people don’t do it well themselves; often not truly networking with others until necessity demands it. Like many things, necessity might  at that point force you to do it, but without the practice, you’re unlikely to be at your best.

So what exactly is networking and how do you both get started and do it well? Networking is having conversations with people where information is exchanged and relationships established and nurtured. It is often associated with advancing one’s own career but this latter part need not be part of some formal definition. Many people network for the purpose of solely learning more about the best practices in their field, or mentoring others without thinking to spin these into self promotions and advancement.

Today I’ve got a meeting set up for noon with one of my LinkedIn connections. This is a face-to-face meeting which could be a one-time only event. It has come about because she initiated contact, indicated she was relatively new to the area and has not had the success she’d hoped for in finding employment so far. Her request for either a meeting or a suggestion of someone else to contact in her field that might assist her is how she started. She’s taken initiative, reached out, and only time will tell if she’s satisfied or not with the outcome. It is however how networking begins.

Networking however has its payoffs. It can be so much more than a conversation. Last night I met with another person who reached out also via LinkedIn initially. This was our second face-to-face meeting. This time we talked about progress she was making, where she was in terms of her career thought process, looked at ways to strengthen her resume when applying and she shared a little of what transpired with others she was meeting with. During this second conversation, I also got some valuable feedback on some ideas I’m considering for the future and she took a real interest in my journey too. It was the best of networking; each person getting and giving for the benefit of both of us.

What is transpiring in the meeting above is a mutual investment in this relationship, rather than a one-way, “it’s all about me because I’m the one without a job” mentality. When both people feel they are benefitting from a conversation, each is invested to a higher degree.

Now the payoff of networking. This time I share with you the success story of a woman with whom I had the distinct pleasure of assisting in her search for meaningful employment. She initiated a dialogue back in January of this year with a gentleman she’s known for almost 15 years, but this time she reached out specifically with employment in mind. That initial networking conversation led to multiple conversations, even an invitation to attend a networking event together as his guest. Just yesterday she got in contact with me to say he himself has hired her on to work with him in his own business.

The experiences of these three women all demonstrate the value of taking the initiative to reach out and network. While much has changed in how we go about finding employment over the years, who you know is still a major key factor in being successful. How do you get to know people if you fail to reach out to anyone you don’t currently know?

Social media platforms such as LinkedIn are great for developing connections, but it still amazes me how many people decline invitations to connect with people they don’t know. Sure there are people who are just clicking away connecting with people for the sole purpose of increasing their numbers. That’s not networking however; that’s a popularity exercise. Connecting with famous people is also not truly networking. You’re unlikely to have an actual conversation with them, but you’ll get their thoughts in a one-way broadcast and you’ll get their name among your contacts if that holds meaning for you.

Here’s some ideas for you to consider acting upon; and let me make it clear that ‘acting upon’ should be your goal. For starters, initiate connection requests to the following people: those who work where you might like to also work or those who work in the same line of work you’re pursuing. You may come across people with profiles that peak your interest and spark some genuine curiosity or affinity with whom you’d like to know better. What might they share with you that would help you find passion yourself in what you do? What might they tell you that would help you get where they are or give you insights into the company or field you’re wanting to join?

Once connected with these people, do more than just count them as a connection. Reach out with an email or message and thank them for agreeing to be a connection. Tell them what attracted them to you and ask if there is the possibility of either meeting face-to-face, having a phone conversation or an online chat.

Be prepared for those that will say yes and those who will decline. Have some questions ready and be prepared to give as well as get. Make it worthwhile for both you and them.

Work your network.

Help In Dark Places


Sometimes in the deepest, darkness places, where lurk the demons Confusion, Doubt, Depression and Despair; you may find at that single moment when you feel resigned to give in, give out and give up; a hand reaching out and offering a way out – if you’ll only reach back and grab it.

Don’t you sometimes feel that although you know not everyone has it easy in this world, you really do believe that no one knows the depths to which you’ve personally sunk? Don’t you feel (if you haven’t succumbed to the numbness that your own decline has brought) that no one really gets you and therefore no one can really help you out of the pit you’re in? It can be like that. If you feel that way right now take heart if for no other reason than you haven’t lost your ability to feel; even if what you feel is an encroaching pallor of blackness.

When it comes to being trapped in a dead-end job, I bet I can take an educated guess at some of what you’ve experienced or are experiencing. If you loathe your job, I’m guessing you’ve thought, “Is this it? It’s a pretty sorry existence when I was brought into this world, told I could be anything I put my mind to and I’m stuck here doing this! Is this it for the rest of my working life? This is how I’ll leave my mark on the world? What a joke!”

Or if you haven’t got a job; are fraught with indecisiveness, feel like you’ve got so much to give but nobody cares to give you a break, you’re left feeling hopelessness and isolation. All the rejection from employers is like dead air on the other end of a phone call when you’ve used your last change and you know if you hang up no refund is coming so you’re hanging on with less than a slim hope that Life will give you a chance. If you had any energy left your last words would be, “All I asked for was a chance…”

Take heart. When you’ve got no sound reason left to believe in Hope; when all the logic in the world suggests you haven’t got a prayer and you hear Despair whispering in your ear that quitting would be so much easier and that yes the world is such a cruel place for someone like you…breathe…and have Faith.

That hand that’s reaching out in the darkness in your direction offering you a way out of the enveloping darkness has always been there and will continue to be there for you – always. All you have to do is put yourself in a place where you can see it, recognize it for what it is, and then have the wisdom to reach back out to it and hold on for all you’ve got until you’re able to stand on your own and move forward with confidence.

I’ve been struck silent 6 times this week if you can believe it by 6 different people who shared their stories with me. Each conversation had the same theme; the person was in a very private dark period in their life, and the darkness was all around them day after day and appeared to have no end. What each of them held onto was exactly the same thing however; I had believed in them and saw something of value in them when they couldn’t see it for themselves. That was all it took to sustain them until they began to believe in themselves. I’m sharing this with you not because I value self-praise, but because in sharing their experiences perhaps you might give the hands reaching out to you the opportunity to help with your own burdens. Perhaps there is a way out of your own dark places.

I don’t know why 6 people over the course of 2 days felt now was the time to express their thanks for seeing something in them in those dark days. I’m grateful, humbled and to be honest feel exhilarated to know that I played a big part – without knowing it at the time – in helping them become the people they are. In all 6 instances, they have made positive changes and feel greater self-esteem, confidence and inclusiveness when it comes to the people around them. Those same 6 I can say with absolute certainty will pay it forward, and without intending to do so, be the hand that reaches out to help someone else.

If you work in Social Services you understand my message. You’ve been the hand in the darkness yourself, looked and found redeeming qualities in those you come into contact with. These were my 6 and I might go for long stretches before the next person thanks me for believing in them. But you; you’ve had the same impact on people in your circle.

If you’re struggling; really teetering on packing it in and just surrendering to the void, look at least a few more times in your bleakness and grasp the hands of Help and Hope that surround you. You must help yourself by making yourself visible and ask for help. YOU are far too valuable, significant and important to give in to Confusion, Doubt, Depression and Despair. If you can’t at the present believe in yourself, believe in those who believe in you. For now, hang on to that.

Never Miss The Chance To Reach Out


About a month ago, I was doing the grocery shopping with my wife when we bumped into a woman we knew from our days living in another town about 20 years previous. It was a really nice chance reunion. Our common bond back in those days was our two daughters playing softball on a team I coached and so naturally the conversation quickly turned to how each was doing.

My wife and I spoke with pride about our own daughter who is now married, employed full-time in a marketing position with Moosehead breweries and overall doing very well. Then we learned that her daughter had graduated from University with a Master’s degree but being unable to locate full-time employment had recently relocated back home from another city to get things stabilized and seek out a job because she wasn’t having much luck. Can you see where this is going?

“Kelly helps people find employment and he’s very good at it”, chirped in my wife before I had the chance to say anything. In the next few moments I had pulled out a business card from my wallet, wrote my home number on it for her and extended the invitation for her daughter to contact me and set up a meeting if she’d like. Parents are always looking for ways to help their children along no matter what their age, and she gratefully accepted the offer of help.

As it turns out, I’m pretty busy at the moment. At work, we are launching a brand new computer program in a week which means in addition to our normal jobs, we are immersed in intensive training. In my personal life, I’m acting in the musical Beauty and the Beast which hits the stage November 7th; also in a week. So the timing is pretty tight to have much time in my personal life when there are the regular household chores to do and find some time for relaxing which is more important in this line of work than you might think otherwise.

So I’ve made the offer to give this young woman three hours of my time on Saturday afternoon. It will take some time to catch up with her and then turn our attention to launching her career, identifying barriers, making thoughtful suggestions and helping her move forward. And I’ve already told her that subsequent meetings are possible and it will be up to her to decide if she’d benefit from those.

And here’s a second situation that I want to share with you. That musical I’m in? There is a woman in the cast who I was listening to just this week as she spoke about what she did outside the theatre. “I’m just a mom”, she said. “Just a mom? Never say the word, ‘just’ as if you have something to apologize for”, I responded. Turns out she had a career in another part of the country that she gave up when she relocated to this area with her husband and has been raising several children for a decade.

Now in this situation I made mention of what I do and said, “I’m an Employment Counsellor and who knows, maybe I can help you out when you’re ready.” Then I handed her a business card from my wallet. Will she call at some point? No idea. But maybe; just maybe.

I share both of these situations with you because the common thread running between them is extending an offer to provide help. The relationship I have with the mother of the woman looking for help this Saturday goes back 21 years. 21 years; think on that. Can you guess today who you will be, who you will know, what your priorities will be, or what life will deal you 21 years from now? I know I can’t and I suspect your best guess is nothing more than that…a guess.

Likewise with my fellow thespian in this musical, (thespian = actor) may not contact me for years if at all, but the opportunity is now there and the offer to help has been made.

Don’t misread this piece to be a, “gee what a wonderful guy am I, and I want you all to know it” article. You’d be missing the point entirely. Other people have helped me out in the past and life has put me in a place where I have the skills and abilities to help other people. I suspect you have opportunities that present themselves in your own life, and it’s whether or not we recognize them and take advantage of them that’s significant.

And it’s not just with things that our work involves. Why in the theatre I remember other more seasoned actors who would offer me suggestions and tips to get the most out of the experience. Now at 55, I’m one of those people who have been in numerous musicals and dramatic productions, and so now I’m pulling others aside and asking if they’d be receptive to a few suggestions. The benefit of doing this is really building relationships, and if you build positive relationships with others in many different parts of your life, you never know when or with whom those relationships will be helpful.

So do reach out to other people. Find the new person in the office and welcome them, and show them the ropes. Reach out to colleagues in social media too. Do more than just connect.