The Big Sister's Guide to the World of Work
By Marcelle DiFalco, Jocelyn Greenky Herz
Many women think of networking like exercising: something that's good for them, that they know they should be doing, but that they just can't find the time or the motivation to do. Plenty of The Girls Who Call Us hate the very concept of networking. Girlogic: networking is slimy, manipulative, superficial, and mostly for people who have no life.
Yet every single career-building book in the universe will tell you that networking is the single most important thing you can do to keep your Options open. We agree. Personally, though, we think the problem here is the word networking. When people use it as a verb, as in "I was out networking last night," we want to gag.
Machines network. Human beings talk.
Networking is actually just Chatting-having a simple, meaningless conversation that creates a Hum between two people. Relationships-and we're talking real relationships here, not just a bunch of names in your Rolodex that you've "collected"-begin with "hello" and are built on a series of Chats.
Once you've established a nice Hum with someone, she becomes your Chum, and you become hers-notice that nice reciprocity part? Getting the Hum going assumes that during your Chat you formed a mutual interest in each other. And we're not necessarily talking only about bigwigs who can hand you your dream job.
Really, isn't everyone you know good to know for some reason? Even if it's just that they make you laugh?
Getting One Pump in the Door
You've already got a bucket of Chums-it's called your address book. All of those people-family, friends from high school, people in your office, friends of your siblings-found their way into your little black book for some reason. You might not think of these Chums as valuable assets in your Option arsenal, but they are: they all have their own connections to other potential Chums that could quite possibly change your life.
We can't tell you how many of The Girls Who Call Us got jobs through a friend of a friend of a friend. Check out how three of The Girls Who Call Us got their most recent jobs:
Alison got a job as a headhunter (when she had zero experience) through a former colleague's husband's sister's contact.
Allison's dad knew somebody whose secretary knew somebody who knew somebody to get her a job in public relations.
Alyson and her sister met a guy at a dog run. He dated Alyson's sister, and Alyson got a job as an Internet retail site producer at his company.
The moral of the story here is not to go out and get a dog, although people do tend to get Chatting with complete strangers on the street who have either dogs or babies. The point is to start broadcasting in a chatty, nondesperate, and positive way, to anyone you meet, about what you do and where you think you would like to go next.
We mean to anyone, anywhere. When J was a senior in college, while she was waiting on line to get into the ladies' room at a bar, she struck up a conversation with the woman in front of her. After a quick little blah-blah-blah on where they both lived, J casually mentioned that she was a communications major and was looking for an internship at an ad agency. Well, turns out the lady on the loo line just happened to be a senior manager at an advertising agency, and before the two of them could even see the stalls, she gave J her card. As soon as J got back to school, she dropped Ms. Senior Manager a note reminding her of their conversation. Ms. Senior Manager arranged for J to get a fab internship for the summer. Hummmmm.
When something is humming away, it's working in the background. Don't you just love it when you hear the washing machine running? It means you are getting something done, and, really, your effort was pretty minimal-you shoved the clothes in, dropped in some soap, pushed the button. Whoosh.
When things are humming, productive work is getting done. So you Chat to get that nice Hum going between you and a wide and diverse crowd of people. Think of it all as music in the background of your work life. Whoosh.
Our careers, as opposed to the string of early hateful J-O-Bs, did not start until we learned to Chat & Hum. We originally thought that we needed to follow all the conventional job-hunt routes-classified sections, job agencies, temp agencies. Obviously some people find success down those avenues, but the best jobs we ever cruised into, and the best jobs that most of the people we know landed, were the direct result of Chatting & Humming. It's a fact: most people get the good jobs the same way they get good dates-because someone "fixed them up."
People's willingness to help each other can be amazing. The fact is that most people like to make good things happen because you are giving them power to do so-the godlike influence to change your life. Plus, when someone helps you get a job, you owe her, and the person she helped out by referring wonderful you owes her. It's a Backscratch!