Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Networking --a Work in Progress

So far I've been networking around getting a new position for about six weeks. I've joined a couple of formal networking groups, like Gray Hair Management (even though my hair is red, they let me in) and Execunet. I've had phone conversations, email notes, and meetings with people I'd never met before, and wouldn't have met otherwise, which is a lot of fun.

I'm starting to make some observations and see patterns about the process. It was good that I did Vipassana, which teaches you simply to observe--not to react or get emotional. People are generally very friendly and helpful. Those at the networking groups who have been around longer are full of suggestions and contacts. Technology plays a part, too. Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are the best for organizing and adding to contacts. I also have developed an Excel spreadsheet where I keep track of people I've met or plan to meet, or to whom I've talked on the phone. I haven't gotten to all the people I've listed that I know, much less the referrals that have been given to me, though I'm making progress.

Early on I sent an email blast to about 200 recruiters, some from the big name houses and other boutique places. (One thing that is amazing to me is how many recruiters there are out there. I don't know how they all make a living--though I guess with the average commission at 1/3 of the first year's salary, it doesn't take too many hits.) Although I was told by the outplacement firm that this is more of a box to tick and not to expect too much, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from a few of them, some by phone and others by email. Three or four called me ---one of them talked at me for the entire time it took to drive from Detroit to Ann Arbor. When I tried to get a word in edgewise, he interrupted me. Another called with a good job, just not the kind of job I am looking for.

Since then, I've seen a few postings by recruiters of some jobs that sound interesting. Understanding that they send these listings to networking groups in the hope of attracting qualified candidates, there is a very interesting psychology at work. I've talked to fellow networkers about this and found a similar experience: if you respond directly to such a listing with your background or a resume, you never hear from them--it doesn't matter whether you are spot on for the job in terms of background/experience, or whether you call or email. But if you have someone else call and say they know of a good candidate--you--most times you do hear from the recruiter. Since statistically (as noted in my last blog) most jobs are not filled by headhunters, I'm not focusing much of my attention here. Plus, you have to figure that in this economy, there are a lot more resumes chasing publicized jobs than the other way around.

I've heard some fascinating networking tales of the strange connections that got people employment. Perhaps the most interesting was a person I talked to early on--he was the connection of a connection--who got a job one time through an audio-visual technician at a networking meeting he attended. The technician had a friend who was the assistant to an executive in this man's field at a nearby company, and offered to put him in touch. That company did not have a job, but the assistant's boss, who talked to the man, had a friend at another company which was hiring, and the man interviewed there and got the job. All because of a helpful audiovisual technician!