Network Your Way to Job Security

I was stunned but not surprised when Don wouldn't meet my eyes that morning. I had grown suspicious when he started passing me over earlier that week while handing out new projects. I was responsible for 40% of the workload in a three man group — why else would he do that?

The company I worked for had been in a downward spiral for quite some time. Every month another group was laid off. Initially they started with the new people and the slackers. These were easy because they contributed little to the bottom line. After round three, the cuts started to hurt. We started to lose project engineers. Ten electricians were quietly told their services were no longer needed. What started as 150 employees would now be 78. Unfortunately for me, I was employee number 79.

A strange twist to the story
Actually, I was relieved. This may sound crazy, but getting laid off was the best thing for my family. The past year had been painful as I watched friend after friend escorted to the door. The hours got longer. The sense of despair was almost palpable.

I knew that a layoff was imminent. I was actively searching for another job, but I had several challenges. First, the economy was still a mess. Second, I had to be extremely discrete. If the company caught wind of my efforts I would feel the ax that much sooner.

But the main reason I felt relieved was that I had a secret weapon: my network.

From the day I started at the company, I aggressively built my network. This was in part because I was an application engineer and worked closely with our customers. In many cases I was far closer to them than our salespeople. I also worked hard to build good relationships with my suppliers. I often knew them better than our purchasing group.

My network gave me strength in the face of unemployment.

 

Seven keys to a strong network
A strong network doesn't just happen. It takes time, effort, and patience. Here are seven tips for creating and maintaining a group of contacts:

Key #1: Build it before you need it
Building a network is a lifelong process, and relationships take time to develop. If you wait until you need help, it may be too late. The odds are you already have a network, but have not developed it to its full potential. Start with your family and friends. Move on to business contacts, members of your church, club members, etc.

This is your base network. If you have weaknesses, get to work. Call up the old friend from college. Email a buddy from your old job. Add business contacts to your Christmas card list. Attend industry events and talk to as many people as you can.

Key #2: You must make a deposit before you have the right to withdraw
Just because you have a name and number doesn't mean a person is part of your network. You must first help them before you can ask a favor. View it like a bank account. Can you take out money if you never make deposits? I've known people who try to do this. After about two requests they are no longer welcome. Pretty soon they are on their own and have a reputation for being self serving.

Something as simple as saying thank you can be a major deposit in your network bank account. If someone gives you a hand, make sure they get credit. See an article in the paper they would like? Cut it out and send it to them, or put them in touch with a resource that can help them with a problem.

Key #3: Give more than you receive
This goes hand-in-hand hand with number two. Strive to maintain a positive (and growing) balance. Compare this with personal finance. You must always make more than you spend.

Key #4: Be open and genuine
People will spot it if you are phony. Relax and be yourself. Just make sure you keep away from volatile topics like religion and politics! To make the most of a network, you must sincerely like people and enjoy helping others when you are able. Say “yes” when you can, but also know when you have to say “no”.

Key #5: Follow up and stay in touch
Even the best contact will get old and stale. I like to view a relationship as two people tied together by delicate strands. Each time you make contact adds another strand. If you stay with your initial meeting the connection is tenuous. It is only when you have hundreds of these strands woven together that you have an unbreakable cable.

Key #6: The devil is in the details
Even the experts have trouble remembering all the details. Write things down. If you get a business card, take notes on the back after you finish your conversation. Use that pad of paper at the meeting. What is their spouse's name? Do they have kids? What ages and genders? What college did she attend? What is his birthday?

Key #7: Your network doesn't end with your contact
Each of your contacts has their own network. Don't be afraid to call and ask “do you know someone who can help?” If you are doing the steps above, they will be glad to make the introduction.

Keep these tips in mind and you too can build a strong personal and professional network.

A happy ending
I was laid off Thursday morning. By Thursday afternoon, I had logged over 50 phone calls. My message was simple: “What jobs are available at your company? Who do you know who is hiring? Who else should I call?”

Even with the lousy economy, I had three interviews set up by the next day. The next week I had seven interviews. Within a week I had two job offers with a third coming. Within two weeks I had a job with a better company.

The best part? I received a promotion and am now selling against my former employer!

For more on this subject, you may want to read the following:

 

More about...Career

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
42 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mike S
Mike S
12 years ago

Great blog, very true.

Unspending
Unspending
12 years ago

Good post! Sounds like Brandt really upgraded his job situation. I couldn’t agree with his networking advice more.

I work in media and I’ve been bouncing from contract-to-contract for the past two years. I’m relatively young (27) so I don’t have to worry about feeding the kids or making mortgage payments, but I do still worry about unemployment. I guess I’ve already implemented some of these strategies since I’ve yet to go unemployed, even for a day, but it’s always good to be reminded. I love the bank account analogy. I think it’s a perfect way to describe networking strategies.

Eric
Eric
12 years ago

Cool story with a good message. Reminds me to email some people and say hello … 😀

MN Scout
MN Scout
12 years ago

Great story. Networking is definitely important. My dad is a good networker and has had to utilize it over the years.

With your last note, that you now sell against your old company, I’d be worried about all the anti-competition clauses in your signing contract with your old company.

Joel Carry
Joel Carry
12 years ago

In the modern age, networking is an essential tool in all aspects of life.

B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
12 years ago

@Unspending-Thanks. If you are doing contract work networking is critical. I have a friend who never goes without a job (unless he is taking a break). His network has a waiting list of projects for him. @Eric-Thanks for the comment and kind words. And yes, you should send those emails! @MN Scout-I was in the clear with the non-compete issue. I didn’t have a contract. I didn’t take or use their intellectual property, and I was not a salesman for them. Also, the anti-compete issues is not cut and dry. A contract that basically forbids you to sell in the… Read more »

Schizohedron
Schizohedron
12 years ago

Spot-on post. Thanks, Brandt, and thanks, J.D, for passing him the mike!

Maria
Maria
12 years ago

I love this post for several reasons: clearly, the power is with the employee, not the employer, if he / she is smart enough to use it as pointed out here. In other words, there are no “victims”, only those who fail to be proactive on their own behalf. You’ve got to build the ark before the rain sets in. Also, networking keeps you aware of the big world outside of your little cubicle and your relationship to it — for example, knowing if you really are still competitive in your market or need to get some new training, etc.… Read more »

Frugal Dad
Frugal Dad
12 years ago

Thanks for this post. I’ve fallen out of touch with several in my network since leaving my last job (we all moved on to different companies). I need to reach out to them this week and make sure everyone is doing well, just to touch base. I did something similar to Brandt, but fortunately (I guess) I didn’t get all the way to the chopping block before I left my former employers. The writing was on the wall, though. I watched several friends and colleagues be escorted into a conference room and then out the door before I got ahead… Read more »

Alison Wiley
Alison Wiley
12 years ago

I had an experience oh so similar to Brandt’s. And due to my vibrant network of friends and colleagues I am now in a much better job than the one from which I was let go three years ago. I write about the role that social connections play in life security and overall happiness in this related post http://www.diamondcutlife.org/the-peak-of-happiness-and-its-causes/

Adam Singer
Adam Singer
12 years ago

And – the easiest way to building a network, is to develop a blog.

Well, not easy in that it is alot of work, but it allows you to aggregate a nice network surround you.

Cubicle Warrior
Cubicle Warrior
12 years ago

I’ve found LinkedIn and various alumni groups to be very effectual at building my network. What does everyone else do?

B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
12 years ago

@Schizohedron & @Mike S-Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. @Maria-Getting your kids into networking is a great point. I did it by accident. They are learning it as they watch me do it and preach building deep relationships with your customers, suppliers, etc. Thanks for your complements and I hope you enjoy your visit to my blog! @Frugal Dad-It can be hard to keep in touch when you don’t spend your day in the office. It’s something I struggle with over the last few years. My advantage is that my day job puts me in… Read more »

Richard
Richard
12 years ago

And – the easiest way to building a network, is to develop a blog. I disagree with this. With a blog you don’t get to meet people face to face. You don’t get to see their whole self, how they interact with other people and how other people respond to their work and personality. You get a one sided view of the person, not the whole story. I have a pretty solid network compared to my classmates who graduated with me in April. My last two jobs were both found through my network, and I’ve found several friends and associates… Read more »

leigh
leigh
12 years ago

i think this is a great lesson, but i don’t really see this as job security. i perceived it as using a network to compensate for lack of job security. this is equally effective, but through a very different path.

i am working my network presently to get a job lined up for whenever i graduate 🙂

B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
12 years ago

@leigh-There is no such thing as security in the job itself. Even the most secure jobs (strong union and military) are subject to layoffs and downsizing. The best security is to be able to have your pick of jobs. This is best accomplished through networking.

By the way, good luck after graduation!

ConnieB
ConnieB
12 years ago

LOL. I am very glad that it worked out for you, and that you got a better job in the bargain!

>>Key #1: Build it before you need it
This is truly an essential concept. I have to roll my eyes at people who don’t participate or give anything to a network, yet they feel like it’s ok to just hop on in and ask for something..

Liked the article.

guardian angel
guardian angel
12 years ago

A clean story! But of all that has been mentioned, I love the first key – Build it before you need it. It’s like Prevention is better than cure.

I must admit, I had previous jobs through my network.

Gainfully Employed
Gainfully Employed
12 years ago

When I was laid off last November I had reached out to many friends and colleagues, but was unsuccessful in finding a job through networking. However, I landed a new job in February through monster.com and would have to agree with Maria that one should be proactive. I had planned to leave my old job at the beginning of this year, but had not started looking before the ax fell. It worked out in my favor though because my new job pays twice as much as my previous job. Lesson learned.

telly
telly
12 years ago

Great post. And good timing too! This morning two of my co-workers were laid off. Oddly enough, just last week I was contacted by two different recruiters whose phone calls I’ve yet to return (is there something they know that I don’t know???). So your post reminded me to return their phone calls, even if things seem safe. Sometimes working in a smaller niche market (I’m a Noise & Vibration Engineer) can be difficult, but I’ve found the network to be very tight so even though my resume isn’t out and about, I get phone calls from people I’ve met… Read more »

Kelsey
Kelsey
12 years ago

great post, good to know as a college student getting ready to graduate and work in the “real world”, glad i’ve started networking already!

B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
12 years ago

@Richard-I prefer to network in person. I may not know someone well enough from blogging to recommend them but I may be willing to point them in the right direction. One aspect of networking is that your contacts have their own network. @ConnieB and @guardian angel-Asking for a favor before you’ve had a chance to contribute is selfish. People see right through you. @telly-noise and vibration engineer…what equipment do you use? I grew up on CSI 2010 but I’m sure technology has moved on. You are right about small tight networks. Your network is far better than any job board.… Read more »

The Tim
The Tim
12 years ago

I’d definitely be interested in a post about LinkedIn. I’m on there and have had a couple of interesting connections made through the site. Would be interesting to know how others are making the most of it.

Jeff S
Jeff S
12 years ago

How does a person network quickly after moving across the country, especially if they’re really shy and it took a few years to create the small network they had before?

Shirley
Shirley
12 years ago

Networking is just about the only way people get jobs in my environment (also contracting). Jobs are few and far between in my area so hiring managers want people who come with an endorsement. I always try to find friends who are also great employees jobs, and often it works out. Likewise, even though I haven’t changed jobs many times, I’ve still been on the receiving end of friends looking out for me and referring me. Losing a job can definitely be the biggest blessing, but as has been said, one has to adopt the non-victim attitude for it to… Read more »

Cindy @ Financial Tips
Cindy @ Financial Tips
12 years ago

This is excellent advice. Networking is very important when it comes to nearly any profession these days, especially mine as a freelance writer and web designer! I’m glad I found this blog today! I will definitely be back for more!

Chris
Chris
12 years ago

Networking is a topic that hasn’t really hit the ground-level until recently. Your seven-tips are fantastic and really nail the big points.

#4 is one of the key ones (I think) and if you do that combined with results you’ll really land some great connections.

Causalien
Causalien
12 years ago

Hi JD

I am a long time reader of your blog and I have been inspired by this post. So much so that I decided to come out from the shadow and say it.

I am also an Applications Engineer, however the attitude I have towards my work is not the same as you. I just realized how small minded I am in terms of the potentials waiting to be build in the hundreds of contacts I have. Thank you for changing my view.

Jeff
Jeff
12 years ago

JD, For many years I felt I only needed to rely upon my strong work ethic and ability to do great work in order to advance my career. As I’ve matured, I’ve come to the conclusion that who you know is just as important as what you know. If your readers liked this post, they may enjoy reading Harvey Mackay’s book on networking titled “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.” It’s a great Networking 101 study guide. Many of the points raised in this post are keys to the success Harvey has had networking during his career. Harvey also covers… Read more »

Sara at On Simplicity
Sara at On Simplicity
12 years ago

Wow–that last paragraph may be what finally gets me out of “Yeah, networking is good” mode and into “Dude, I need a network” thinking.

I love Brandt’s approach. If you network with people you trust and respect, then helping them out is probably pretty fun as well as a long-term “deposit.”

Lil
Lil
12 years ago

I’m a bit shy and self-deprecating, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised the times when people I know (through friends or through my bf) have asked me to work with them on interesting projects. Now that I think of it, all of my most important jobs were “found” like that. So, yeah, do what you love and be yourself and you’ll build a network even if you’re not a social butterfly 🙂

telly
telly
12 years ago

Brandt, I’ve never heard of CSI 2010 (but cool name). We use B&K & Head Acoustics mostly (I’m more on the acoustics side of things). I think you’re right when you say, “when people start getting laid off it is often just the beginning”, however, my company is consistently laying off small pockets here and there. Someone I’ve managed to avoid it for 8+ years. The issue is, being in an area of the country where job losses are happening every day, I actually feel safer where I am with 8 years seniority than being the new kid on the… Read more »

B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
12 years ago

@Jeff S-My advice is to start with your immediate contacts. Get to know you coworkers. Move outside your department and meet new people. Meet your neighbors. What many people forget is that they have a network all around them. They just get caught up in the day to day and never connect. To stretch yourself start getting to know your venders at work. They have a vested interest in this and will help carry the relationship. Do you have an industry group? If so get involved. It is so much easier to do this than to throw yourself into a… Read more »

B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
B Smith @ Wealth and Wisdom
12 years ago

@Shirley-I’ve found my network to be the best source of jobs. It gives you an inside track to the organization and will let you in on what it is like to work for them. You don’t want to take a new job only to find you hate the culture. You are right that this is a proactive attitude. The victim mentality will never get you far. When the ax falls you don’t have time to complain. @Cindy @Chris @Sara at On Simplicity-Thanks for the kind words. @Causalien-Attitude is everything. App engineers often get little love or respect by their salesmen… Read more »

Arwen
Arwen
12 years ago

this post so great I passed it along to all the artists I know. from our perspective, this is great audience development advice – thanks!

The Finance Section
The Finance Section
12 years ago

Networking is key to success at any time but especially so in the current economic environment. Whilst writing blogs and being memebers of websites such as LinkedIn all help, there is no real substitute for getting out and meeting people. Then follow the points in the article to ensure your network remains strong.

Johann
Johann
12 years ago

Thank you for your excellent tips.
You laid out details that are easy to follow and practical. I shall start following them definitely.

Cambridge KC
Cambridge KC
12 years ago

Warning! Networking can disappoint. There are a number of posts on the Internet by people who were shocked that their fellows on their personal network did nothing to assist them when they were in a hole. So by all means go ahead and build a network, but please don’t be surprised that after all that nurturing effort, the other people don’t help you when you need their help. And you won’t find out how helpful they will be, until you need their help – and then its possible you will be disappointed. It’s your call.

Shadox
Shadox
12 years ago

Brandt,

A very well written post. I whole heartedly agree. There is nothing more powerful for advancing your career than a strong business network.

I would add that a very important part of that network should be your colleagues. As people leave the current company and spread around the industry you will have a very strong professional network that can be extremely useful, but only if you keep in touch with folks after they leave your orgnaization.

Holly
Holly
12 years ago

What a great post! I work for a staffing company in Boston, Hollister Staffing (www.hollisterstaff.com) and I’m constantly networking for myself and my clients. Every little bit helps. I find that I make connections in the strangest ways and sometimes it gives me leads to new jobs for my clients. I also do my best to stress the importance of networking to my candidates to help them get their name out there and meet new people. I will definitely pass your advice along, thank you!

Ken Forester
Ken Forester
12 years ago

Great post! Thanks. Networking always helps – but we all should remember that jobs and job security depends on the economy and knowing where to look for jobs will greatly improve one’s chances of getting a good job. For a majority of us, job security is good when the economy is doing well. Unfortunately, the economy today is very bad and a lot of people have lost jobs, and in spite of networking heavily many are simply still without jobs. It’s as simple as that. There are companies that track economy and can compute what your or my job security… Read more »

Mike
Mike
9 years ago

I loved your post! Thanks, I really enjoyed it. Networking, networking & networking!

As a trainer my job depends %100 on networking and with these tough times I’ve had no issues because I don’t focus on a single market, I focus on the people in my network (all markets).

Great stuff!

shares