Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why Connections Sometimes Count More Than Skills

Is it better to develop your skills or your network? I've heard arguments from some people that only skills count today, while others believe that only your connections count. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

You need both skills and connections to succeed in your career. But the best news is that at the start of your career when your skills are less developed you can compensate by working very hard on your networking.

So why are connections so important? In theory everyone always chooses the best person for the job. Except that they don't. They can't. It's impossible because of our imperfect knowledge -- somewhere out there is the person we need but we don't know who it is. It's also impossible because if everyone went to the best person that person would be very busy and unavailable.

In reality when people say that they are choosing the best they often mean that they are choosing the best person from the pool of people that they know, or that their friends know. In other words they are looking for people in the intersection of the sets "people who can do the job" and "people I know". Your problem is simply to be in that intersection. You don't need to be the best at your job but you do need to be widely known to hear about interesting opportunities.

There's a way to visualize this concept. Imagine that you are a photographer living in a small town. There is only one other photographer in town. Now suppose that you spend every spare minute honing your skills and mastering new techniques until you are the best. Meanwhile your rival is hanging out at chamber of commerce mingling evenings, attending conferences, doing pro-bono work for charities and other opportunities for meeting people. Ms Rival is known to everyone in town. You are not. Who do you think the townspeople are going to call when they need a photographer?

In this situation if you start networking more effectively you have a chance of taking some of the business away from the rival, so connections will always trump skills provided that you are at least competent. This means that networking can be especially useful at the beginning of your career when perhaps your skills are not so polished, but simply being known gets you the work.

But what about the cases where a job is advertised and anyone can apply. You might think that connections are irrelevant in these situations but this is not true. Many jobs are not advertised and no advertising campaign can ever reach the entire population. This means that you are still reliant on your network to hear about unadvertised jobs and simply to see the ads for the ones that are advertised. There is no time when connections are meaningless.


More about professional networking

There's much more about professional networking in my book Payforward Networking, available in paperback and Kindle editions.







Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Andrew Hennigan provides lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about networking, influencing, speaking and other communication topics. To book a session email conseil@andrewhennigan.com or call 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81. You can also find out more at http://andrewhennigan.com


Related Posts about Networking

Networking Yourself into a New Career
Dealing with LinkedIn Requests from Strangers
Why Payforward Networking is More Effective than Tit-for-Tat
Three ways to be more confident at networking events
Why being a connector makes your networking more effective.
Why you should be networking even if you are not looking for a job
How Encouraging Networking Makes Your Workplace More Effective
How to Make Photos for Professional Profiles and CVs
Why Networking is About Building relationships
How to Use Twitter for Professional Networking
LinkedIn: Why Unanswered Messages are Wasted Opportunities
LinkedIn May Be Hacker's Dream Tool But Attacks Easy to Foil
Recruiters Not Only Check Social Media They Use Them to Identify People
How to Separate Work and Private Networking
Linkedin Etiquette: How to Approach People You Don't Know
Professional Networking: Five Sites You Should Be Using for Your Career
Three Keys to Networking
Selling Your Ideas: Influencing Your Way to Success

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Networking Yourself into a New Career

One question that often comes up in networking workshops is "How do I network myself into a new career?". This question is mostly asked by people who would like to move to a new field where the prospect of finding work seems better, or simply people who are tired of what they are doing and want to move into something different. The problem they face is that they have no experience and no contacts in the new field.

At least the contacts part is actually straightforward to fix once you have decided to do it. There are many ways to approach the problem and here are just six:

TELL PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR PLANS. You are much more likely to get helpful advice, hear about opportunities and make new connections if you are open about your plan. Keeping your goal secret just means that you will not be in the loop and not taken seriously. Tell your network, tell your friends, tell your family, tell the people you meet. Sooner or later you will meet someone who is either in the business or has connections there. You will probably be surprised a few times, too. That old friend you haven't ever talked to about work might know exactly who you should be talking to.

EXPAND YOUR NETWORK IN GENERAL. Attend events, be active on social networking sites and anything else that will grow your network. It doesn't matter if the new people are in the new field that interests you. Just having more connections makes it more likely that you will end up with connections where you want them. If you connect with ten people with 500 connections that means you add 5000 new people to your network; the people you are looking for might well be in those second-degree connections. Don't make the mistake of focusing entirely on people who seem closest to your goal.

LEARN FROM YOUR NETWORK. Talk to people in your expanded network because maybe somebody already works in the field that interests you or can connect you with someone who does. When you do find someone start talking to them but don't ask them for a job. Find out which are the companies to follow, who are the interesting people, the publications to read, the conferences to attend, the professional organizations to join and so on. Make sure you also tell them about your plan. Use this knowledge to grow your network further in the right direction, making new connections

FOLLOW COMPANIES, THOUGHT LEADERS IN THE NEW FIELD. Once you have identified companies and thought leaders in the new field you should follow them on LinkedIn and any other site they are active. Read the updates and start building up an awareness of what is happening in the business. This will help identify potential employers and also make it easier for you to have a conversation with people in the business. If you are going to jump from one business to another you must be sure you don't sound clueless. Lack of experience is something people can deal with; ignorance is not.

ATTEND FACE-TO-FACE EVENTS. You can meet many people through social networks but for building strong relationships quickly you can't beat face-to-face events. Attend conferences, trade shows, meetings or anything where you are likely to meet the people in the new field. There are a surprising number of conferences -- often free -- happening all the time. You need to be aware of where people go in the new field and you have to show your face there, too. Sometimes just being there and being recognized helps to break the ice with new people. Even if you haven't talked before the fact that they have seen you around means that the barrier to building trust is already falling.

BUILD MORE CREDIBILITY. If you are planning on moving into an area where you have no previous experience it can help to build some credibility in other ways because this will also help your networking. One way is to take advantage of the many high-quality online courses that are open to everyone today through sites like edX. This will not just teach you things that you should probably know, it will also demonstrate commitment, which will impress prospective employers. Consider also activities that are related to the new business. If you are moving into aviation it will help if you make the effort to get a pilots license, even if your work is not directly related to flying. Volunteering in the right places can help, too. Working as a volunteer on an indie movie is going to look good when you want to work in media. Volunteering for any professional organizations looks good on your CV and also gives you visibility.

Over the years I have known plenty of people who have succeeded in moving from one business to another, from business to academia and many other leaps. In most cases the opportunities came quite quickly when they realized that they actually did have connections in the new field, they just didn't know it. But working hard at the transition isn't going to get in the way.


More about professional networking

There's much more about professional networking in my book Payforward Networking available in both paperback and Kindle editions.





Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Andrew Hennigan provides lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about networking, influencing, speaking and other communication topics. To book a session email conseil@andrewhennigan.com or call 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81. You can also find out more at http://andrewhennigan.com


Related Posts about Networking

Dealing with LinkedIn Requests from Strangers
Why Payforward Networking is More Effective than Tit-for-Tat
Three ways to be more confident at networking events
Why being a connector makes your networking more effective.
Why you should be networking even if you are not looking for a job
How Encouraging Networking Makes Your Workplace More Effective
How to Make Photos for Professional Profiles and CVs
Why Networking is About Building relationships
How to Use Twitter for Professional Networking
LinkedIn: Why Unanswered Messages are Wasted Opportunities
LinkedIn May Be Hacker's Dream Tool But Attacks Easy to Foil
Recruiters Not Only Check Social Media They Use Them to Identify People
How to Separate Work and Private Networking
Linkedin Etiquette: How to Approach People You Don't Know
Professional Networking: Five Sites You Should Be Using for Your Career
Three Keys to Networking
Selling Your Ideas: Influencing Your Way to Success