Networking Since Grade School?  Yes!

Networking Since Grade School? Yes!

We all know the value of networking. However, sometimes we forget we’re networking when we least expect it.

Let me tell you a true story…

A Network in Action

I recently placed a candidate in a very important, high-level role with one of my clients. She went through a fairly standard process of several stages, doing well the whole way through. Of course, there was competition, too.

When she got to the last interview with the CEO, a funny thing happened. By a quirk of fate, they talked about people they both knew. One of these was a fellow student of my candidate – in junior high school and then in high school, too.

Back then, my candidate was a superstar, too. A good reputation. Involved within the community. Hard worker. You get the picture. The CEO naturally used this connection to evaluate the candidate further, which helped seal the deal for my candidate.

The lesson learned here is we really don’t know where the fringe of our network begins and ends. And we don’t always have control over it. It grows on its own, too.

Build the Positive

The key to remember is, if you are building a negative reputation in any area of your life (school, neighborhood, employer, social networking sites), it can come back to haunt you. On the flip side, a positive reputation in the strangest places can help you.

Of course, we can’t go back in time and change the past. Although, our children are building their networks right now, and should think about the impact of their actions and behaviors on their future. For us, the past can be revisited in the present day; we just need to think creatively about this.

What to think about:

  • How can you mend any broken bridges in your past?
  • How can you strengthen your reputation in the areas where you already have developed networks? Are you known as a contributor, or simply a member?
  • How do you make a good impression when meeting new people? For example, how do you operate when meeting friends of friends in social settings?
  • Are you tracking your Social Media reputation by getting alerts from Google when your name is mentioned on the Internet? Are you getting a few recommendations on LinkedIn for each job you’ve had?
  • Are you talking to your references after they are contacted to see how the conversations went? Perhaps, they are not the best references.
  • If you have worked as a contractor, have you conducted a customer satisfaction survey to make sure they are a good reference if contacted (without your knowledge)?
  • Even relatives might need to be coached on what to say if they’re approached about you. For example, what will they say if asked why you left your last job.

As you think about your network, don’t limit yourself to work environments and professional colleagues. Consider anyone who knows you to be a possible “character witness” in your future trial during your next job search.

“Network Cleansing” Now

It is also best and easiest to work on “network cleansing” while you are NOT looking for a job. In a pinch, this effort can be tedious and time-consuming. Time is a luxury you may not have in final stages of interviewing with an ideal company. This is an exercise that can be done any time.

Bottom Line

Be creative about your network and never assume you know what it says about you. Find out. Don’t miss any dark corners—cover as much ground as possible. You never know who in your past will turn out to be your best reference—just like my recently-placed candidate, it could date back to your youth.

Jeff LipschultzAbout the author…

Job-Hunt’s Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring, and recruiting of all types of business and technical professionals. He has worked in industries ranging from telecom to transportation to dotcom. Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consulting company. Learn more about him through his company site Follow Jeff on LinkedIn and on Twitter (@JLipschultz).
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