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The Power of Networking

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I know we’ve been banging on about it for ages, but networking really is a critical skill. How important, and valuable, has really been brought home to me this week.

Last Sunday I had a casual chat about the world and everything with someone I’ve known for years. Somehow the conversation came around to my dreadful experiences of trying to find someone to re-fit our bathroom.

Basically, we’ve seen it all. Some “experts” just didn’t turn up at all. Clearly, they don’t want or need the work. Others do arrive (eventually) measure up, spout about their expertise and are then never heard from again. Other firms spend hours taking a brief and then come back with designs that bear no relation to what we discussed. The worst of all being the ones who think you’ll love that pet design they’d love in their own house. Which is clearly somewhere near Blingsville, USA rather than in Lincolnshire. Think Footballers Wives meets a 70’s discotheque.
“Why didn’t you ask me?” was the response. I was, for once, speechless. I knew my mate did all sorts of work installing bars and kitchens in hotels and restaurants but didn’t have a clue he tackled domestic projects too. I’d never thought to ask. Plumbing, tiling, plastering, joinery, electrics. It really was obvious once you thought about it.

What that proves is if you don’t ask, don’t expect people to volunteer help. They don’t magically know you’ve got a problem. For example, they may not even know you’ve been made redundant. Or they could think that talking to you about losing your job is rubbing salt in a wound. They may be afraid to ask, “are you OK, can I help?” for fear of upsetting you.

All my friends know I work for Chiumento – and that we offer outplacement. Yet several have hesitated to ask for help when they have career issues. The most common reason? They just think I am really busy and it is unfair to add to my workload.

Just this week I have helped someone get a job. Not through work but just by connecting two people I thought might be able to help each other. Turns out they were only one connection away on LinkedIn. One was hiring, the other job hunting. They just never reached out. Both have done me favours in the past, now it is pay back. That’s what networking is all about: mutual benefit.

I’ve ended my week as I started. I had a text earlier from another mate saying “you don’t know a roofer do you?” As it happens I do. He’s never done any work for me, but we know each other socially. The power of networking again.

My message to job hunters? Make sure you ask people for help.

The proof it works? Mike, the MD of our outplacement business, and I have known each other for years but we probably hadn’t spoken in 4 or 5. When he was made redundant he called me. Six weeks later I offered him a job. If he hadn’t reached out, I’d never have known he was job hunting.

A final thought: relationships with recruitment agencies often work the other way. They’ll ask first and then pay back later. It always amazes me when I speak to senior people who complain that recruitment agencies don’t return their calls. I always ask, “did you take their sales calls when you were hiring?” The answer is invariably no. So that breaks the first rule of networking – it cuts both ways.
‘The power of networking…’ was written by Ian Gooden, CEO Chiumento Ltd. If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future careers advice and musings on the world of work.