The battle for your network stars

Part one of a two-part series which originally appeared in the February 2008 EmoryWire. To read part two, see Take Charge of Your Career! Learn to Network.

Two marketing professionals with similar roles, skill sets, and professional experiences are laid off following a merger. One volunteers for her trade association marketing committee, attends industry meetings, and maintains prior work relationships. She secures a new job in six weeks. The other, while a hard worker, has not kept close contact with other professionals in the industry. It takes 11 months to land a new role.
          
In two separate divisions of a major financial services firm, a pair of vice presidents encounters a new and challenging boss situation. Both have excellent track records backed up by stellar performance reviews. Within eight weeks of the change, one professional who is loved by his team but has not built relationships outside his immediate group is exited from the organization with hardly a thank you. The other reaches out to internal allies and soon accepts a major promotion and a significant raise. Why did one professional move up while the other moved out?
          
Networking.
          
Anyone who has considered a career change or run into a career hurdle has heard the statistic—80 percent of jobs come through networking. “Change is the only thing that is guaranteed in our careers these days,” said the EAA's Executive Career Coach Jodie Charlop 82Ox 85C.
           
Effective networking is one of the top reasons professionals seek career coaching. According to Charlop, the lead coach for the EAA’s Career Coaching and Counseling Program, effective networking takes time and is not just something you do when you need a job.
           
“It’s a vital skill that professionals must develop to navigate inevitable change and proactively manage sustainable career success,” she said. “Networking is important with both internal colleagues as well as external organizations, especially when you want to make a move to a new industry or role where you don’t have a direct track record.”
          
Clotilde Huyghues-Despointes 91C 98PhD agrees and credits networking as key to her recent move from an academic role to the highly competitive pharmaceutical industry. “I could not have made this move successfully without expanding my network, but I learned the hard way that it takes time to build new connections,” she said.
           
Huyghues-Despointes, who voluntarily left her prior role to focus on her career change, said she underestimated the time needed to build a high-impact network that could connect her to the pharmaceutical industry, estimating it took nine months to a year to see meaningful traction. She credits her Emory alumni relationships as a strong part of helping her build that foundation—and gives special credit to a fellow Emory graduate who helped her find a position ahead of other candidates with more industry experience.
           
When his former employer restructured last year, Mo Jamil 96PH 03MBA realized his network was limited. “I had been so focused on doing great work that I didn’t take time to network,” he said. “So when the restructuring came, I had to move quickly, and it just takes time to get meetings scheduled, follow up on new contacts, new career leads.”
           
Now with a new role at AT&T, Jamil said a key professional priority this year is to nurture his burgeoning network and grow it both internally and externally. “You don’t realize how important a network is until you need it,” he said.
          
Charlop cites two distinct advantages of building a network before you need it. “One, you are meeting people at a time when you don’t need a job—and that changes the psychology of the conversation,” she said. “People often are more willing to connect, and it creates a space for building conversation or relationship without the pressure of rejection of either party.
          
The second is the pace. It’s manageable and organic. If it takes it takes a month or two to have coffee with an important contact, you aren’t feeling the pressure to connect. People meet on their own time frames and when you are looking for a job, you have a different sense of urgency. Plus, consistency adds up. If you have coffee or meet with just one new professional each week, you’ll have more 50 new contacts by the end of the year—many of which you can select to nurture and develop to new levels of professional friendships.”
          
Once those connections are established, email can help nurture your new network. “I try to reach out to all my contacts at least once a quarter with a call or a quick email,” said Keith Walker 88C, senior vice president for investments with DTZ Rockwood. He shared his networking tips at a recent ECN event in New York. “Keeping in touch always brings out new opportunities—for you and them.”
          
“If you can make networking a natural part of your daily life, you have a higher likelihood of maintaining momentum over the long-term,” Charlop said. “Professionals often ask me how to bullet proof their careers and my answer is always the same … ‘You are only as strong as the power of your relationships.’”