How Colleagues Can Be Your Ticket to Jobs
One of the toughest parts of networking is determining where to spend that time and energy. We all know a lot of people — and the longer you’ve been working in a particular industry, the more you know — and it can be quite labor intensive to keep up with a lot of folks, especially in this era of social networking.
One could literally do nothing else all day but stay on top of email, instant and text messages, your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, the Web sites and blogs of those in your network, and phone calls to your various numbers in between having coffee, lunch and drinks with contacts and then heading to a networking event or two! Who has time for actual work?
The trick is to figure out who will be some of your best career resources — those who are going to help you get jobs again and again — and focus your networking attention on them. One of the best pieces of advice I received from a well-networked mentor early in my career was to make it a priority to be a good colleague and then to stay in touch with co-workers as they move into other jobs. They are in a position not only to introduce you to others as they know you but more importantly they know your work — so their referral or recommendation is authentic and likely will be respected and can open doors.
Here are some tips on how your colleagues and former colleagues can be a ticket to jobs for you throughout your career:
*Keep them up to date on your work. Though former colleagues may be well-placed and happy to help, if it has been years since they worked with you they are not going to be as effective a referral as if they were a current fan of your work. So make them so. Target a few former co-workers to actively keep up with going forward and send them updates on your progress. Let them know as soon as you’ve changed jobs — or are looking for a new job — and send along updated contact information. Provide links to your recent articles or blog posts, encourage them to become a regular follower of your Web site or feeds and alert them when something important has happened in your career. Sending along material also provides a good avenue to stay in touch.
*Give, don’t only receive. It can’t be underscored enough — former colleagues, like everyone else, will be much more willing to pick up the phone on your behalf if you show up not only when you need something. When they ask for a favor, try to do what you can for them right away. And if you can’t help, tell them why (and right away) and offer assistance in another form. Be proactive about assisting former colleagues and also others they’re close with — and offer, don’t wait to be asked.
*Get them involved in your search. Don’t ask for a referral straight away, instead, seek their counsel about their organization (or one where they have an “in”) and their advice about whether an opening would be a good fit for you. Most people are only too happy to share their knowledge and to be considered an expert. When appropriate, ask former colleagues for advice about your job hunt and their impressions of what kinds of openings would be right for you. Then, when they are already involved and have a stake in your job search, it’s much easier to ask them to pass along your resume. At that point, they may even offer to do so.
*Think broadly. Don’t focus only on your boss or other highly placed colleagues when considering who may be helpful to you going forward. Try to forge positive relationships with as many co-workers as possible early and throughout your career. One friend who worked on the Hill for several years offers this advice: “Don’t be a jerk to the interns. You never know where they’ll end up a few years from now.” And she’s right — especially in Washington where one year’s low-level Hill staffer can end up in a key administration or committee job a few years down the road. Those in junior positions today may not be in those jobs for long, and they’ll likely remember those who were good to them and those who weren’t. And the same is true in journalism — some of my former reporters who appreciated that I helped them on the way up have been generous with their help later on, not only to me but to those who I was trying to assist, when they had moved into positions of importance.