The Science of Networking: Advice from within a Network

I know a lot of students are curious (more than curious) about making networking work for them. I didn’t have a chance to attend the recent networking workshop at our faculty, because I was doing some actual networking (at a reception to appreciate student leaders at the university), but I think I just had the most useful networking session.

Tonight the St Andrews Alumni Club of Toronto held its annual wine and cheese event. I first met these people at the same event a year ago, and I have returned to their events* because they are some of the most welcoming, friendliest people I have met in Toronto. Each time I enjoy chatting with them and catching up, and learning from them.

Learning from them.

This brings me to my main point tonight. I spent some time listening to one of the men I have worked with, briefly.* He very generously shared his wisdom on the science behind getting a job, and where and how networking fits in. His two main points:

1. Have an offer

2. Have a target

The first, in summary, means being able to tell someone who is in a position to offer you a job, 10 stories about things you are darn proud of. Achievements that you believe set you ahead of the pack and make you chocolate (or pistachio, or tiramisu, or coffee) instead of run-of-the-mill vanilla. What, he asked, can you give to this person who might be able to offer you a job?

The second is where networking comes into play. The target, he said, was more specific than I thought. I thought, before I spoke with him, that I had a pretty good idea about where I wanted to work. Well, it’s not specific enough. Some examples he gave me, based on what I mentioned I am interested in, include parameters such as salary level, and the opportunity to travel to Italy twice a year at somebody else’s expense. Knowing specifiically what you want, and being able to avoid rationalizing any job at all, will among other things, but most importantly, allow people you meet, people you talk to, people who interview you, etc., to become resources. In fact, if you can say, I want x, y, and z out of a job, they will then be able to say, I don’t have a place for you, but let me put you in touch with so-and-so…. And that is how networking works.

Now, I’m nothing of an expert when it comes to networking and job hunting, but it seems to me these are very good points. Maybe this is advice people have been trying to tell me that I haven’t internalized or completely realized until now.

Before I forget, he also mentioned that doing research to find out who are the power brokers in your field. Who are the people who have the power to be resources, or to make connections, or to hire you. Get in touch with them, find out how to approach them, and that is the most important thing. Once more, I heard the line “it’s who you know.”

So. My tasks for the rest of this semester include finding out who the “power brokers” are, making a list of 10 stories about achievements that I am proud of having accomplished, and narrowing down what and where and how I want to work. Then, in January, when I start sending out my resume and applying for jobs and sitting for interviews, I hope I will be better off than I would have been.

Getting in touch with this group of people may have been one of the savviest decisions I’ve ever made, and I am so glad I did.

Have you received any other advice or do you have any other advice about networking and finding a job? I’d love to read it. What do you think of this advice?

* Last March I had the wonderful opportunity to plan a dinner in honour of the 600th anniversary of St Andrews University with some of these people.

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