Connections for life. What does that really mean? When this poster went up on Michigan Avenue outside the Chicago campus, I began to wonder why we need connections for life, what it means to have connections for life, and what it takes to maintain those connections for life. I then found a great article posted 1 year ago titled, “Hire Economics: Why Applying to Jobs Is a Waste of Time,” and my questions started forming their own answers:
Why should I have “connections for life?”
Lou Adler tells us in the article above that, “the sequence of steps companies use to fill jobs [begins with] promoting people internally, [then] networking and getting referrals, and [finally] searching through resume databases and posting on job boards. This sequence results in two job markets, one that’s hidden, the other public.” This is no different than what Richard Bolles explains in his 2014 edition of What Color is Your Parachute?, a popular, and effective, manual for developing your career and job search methods.
So, if Lou Adler and Richard Bolles are right, then we have a lot of work to do in terms of connecting with people in the world of LIFE, not just the world of work. People hire people, and we all at least know a job seeker who landed an interview or got hired because they knew someone within the company/organization (if we weren’t that job seeker ourselves!).
What does it mean to have “connections for life?”
Quite simply, this means you have people to whom you can turn when you are in need of professional advice, have career-related questions, or would like to generally discuss similar professional interests, ideas, and/or goals. The trick with networking is to learn how to ride the fine line between friend and colleague—learning what kind of information to share, learning how to make the most of even the shortest of interactions, and having the confidence to be vulnerable and make what I like to call “professional friends.” You ARE NOT befriending these connections on Facebook, you ARE connecting with and following them on LinkedIn.
What does it take to maintain these connections?
This is the part that seems to trip people up the most. I have no science to prove this theory, but in my experience I’ve seen clients not maintain networking connections due to fear and insecurity: the fear of looking foolish or incompetent, insecurity over what they think they can (or cannot) offer the connection in return. Time and again, I reassure clients that people hire people, and we have to make ourselves known and vulnerable, as uncomfortable as it may feel, in order to build a career we find truly fulfilling. So, how do we authentically network with our connections over a lifetime?
1. Be a friendly professional. Smile, smile, smile. Having a likeable personality is somewhat teachable—smiling at people in an elevator, passersby in the hall, and even as you wait in line at your favorite coffee shop all give you the chance to build your confidence in approaching new people as well as give you the opportunity to have spontaneous conversations with other friendly, professional people.
2. Know yourself and what you have to offer. I believe the Career Development bloggers have at least mentioned this feat in every blog post (check out the Career Planning and Career Management tabs to the right)—it’s because it is foundational to any career success! Check out Emily Drake’s article here, and then move on to tip number 3.
3. Remember that people DO actually want to talk to you; it’s just that they are likely as scared as you are to start the conversation. Todd Connor with Flank 5 Academy just posted this short video summary of the train experiment and explains that we do have “heightened levels of enjoyment indicators when we are in conversations with strangers on the train or on the buses.” Todd recommends to take the initiative to start conversations and I add to that, be bold in taking more control of your career goals.
None of us have to do this alone– having connections for life sets us up for continued growth and success, both personally and professionally. Remember to smile, show gratitude, and return networking favors as you get the opportunity. As always, if you are a student or alum of NLU, be sure to reach out to us for help!