Sunday, September 19, 2010


Networking is an old term. Some call it "shmoozing" and others call it other things, but the old axiom is true: it's not what you know, it's who you know, that gets you a job (speaking of the profession in which I work).

I'm really not the social sort. If I had a choice of going to a reception at the end of a long day, I often would skip it and go home. I have attended hundreds of conferences, and again, at the end of a long day of conferencing, I'd go back to my hotel room and go to bed early rather than go out to a late dinner with other conference attendees and "network."

However, there is power in developing a large circle of people who not only know you're name, but also know your skills, abilities, and interests. Over many years, I would spend quality time with people in both professional settings (teaching, public speaking, collaborating on projects, etc.) and socially (off-times during conferences or training sessions, mostly.) They would get to know me and I would get to know them. We would keep in touch, though the frequency of contact varied.

Such was the case with me these past few months. I was laid off from my job on June 4. I saw it coming, and accepted it as a fait accompli. I felt that my calling had changed from working to earn an income at a job that simply was that -- a job -- to caring for my elderly aunt who needed a lot more help and attention and my "job" was to do everything in my power to enable her to live safely, comfortably, and well.

So throughout June, July, and August, I concentrated on helping my aunt get through a serious health crisis where she could have died. I spent many hours every day organizing a lot things required to enable her to live in her own home, yet have professional caregivers with her 24/7. Even though she has caregivers with her all the time now, it still requires lots of my time to keep her fridge and pantry stocked, meds updated, visiting and keeping her mind active, and to attend to minor but serious problems like skin infections and other things.

Throughout my layoff time, I would occasionally visit an on-line job board to see if there was something I was interested in doing. I applied for some jobs, but none of these positions would invoke my passions. If I were hired for one of these jobs, it would pay the bills, but I just would be going through the motions of doing what I had to do. Not much fun....

Well, anyway, I also kept up the networking through the summer. Posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites, as well as direct email, telephone conversations, and so forth kept the word out that I wanted to return to my profession and do what I am recognized for on the national stage.

It was one of those people who led me to learning about a position that is perfect for me. A Facebook friend sent me a link to a description of my perfect job -- on my birthday no less (great timing, huh?). The job description was posted on another social network, LinkedIn.

I submitted my resume, and got a call within an hour to set up an interview. The first interview led to a second. The second interview led to a real-time test of how I applied my skills during an exercise.

I had stiff competition for this position. I put out a call to my network for references, and was overwhelmed to receive over 70 thoughtful, thorough replies. I had four professional references from top-notch people written for me on request, as well. My references (also developed through years of networking) really pulled for me and helped convince them to make me an offer for what will be my dream job: in my field, and something about which I am exceptionally passionate about.

I begin my new job on Oct. 4 November 22 (changed, thanks to how slow bureaucracy is), and will be working with people who I have known professionally for years. Great thing about it is that it's an absolutely perfect match for my skills and passions. It's also right in my home town, so the commute will be simple.

So I am here to say that I was wrong -- just a year ago I was writing here with a "bah-humbug" attitude about Facebook and social networking in general. But I acknowledge that without that contact, I probably wouldn't have known about this job and wouldn't have applied, been interviewed, or gotten such a generous offer.

Life is short: network! (including social networking, too!)

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