A coworker who has the same job title as me went to visit a customer. The customer told him he was unhappy at the current employer and that they were likely going to let him go anyways, since they already shrunk the department by 12 people. He wanted out, and since our company is connected to many different engineers and manufacturers, he was looking for a connection that my coworker could provide. My coworker leaves the meeting, and sends me a text message that says, “Do you know anyone looking for a senior engineer?” and then provides some additional information about the skills. I responded, “Not off the top of my head. Let me check my network.” I logged in to LinkedIn, wrote a quick post that said, “I know a senior engineer who is looking for a job if anyone is looking for one.” The post got shared a bunch of times down the line because contrary to some world outlooks, most people want to help someone if they can. A connection of mine reached out and said, “I have a friend who just asked me a couple days ago if I knew engineers she could hire. Can I connect them?” I said, “Sure. I’ll have to connect you with my coworker though, he has the contact information.” I sent him my coworkers info, a bunch of messages were exchanged which I wasn’t apart of, and then I received a screenshot of a text message of the gentlemen who was looking for a new job, thanking my coworker for connecting an interview. It didn’t even require a resume. And the interview was setup within 2 hours of my coworker being asked!
How do you get to that position to do it for yourself, or for others?
In my day job, I manage customer relationships. Before that I was an engineer, but the opportunity for my new role came about because while I was an engineer, I was connecting with all our customers. Reaching out on LinkedIn. Writing thoughts that would help them in their lives and in their jobs. As a result, my commitment to making connections with others became visible to management, and they wanted that kind of person connecting with our customers. It was a welcome change for me, as I realized after college that working with people can require creative problem solving as much as engineering. It also came with a significant pay bump.
About 2 years ago, when I made the switch, the amount of people I could connect with skyrocketed as it was my full-time job. Over the last 7 years, I’ve made about 800 connections on LinkedIn with people related to engineering and manufacturing. I’ve actually talked to 2-3 times that many people. It’s not possible to have that many deep, personal relationships, but it is possible to see opportunities to help each other, even if I don’t know your birthday.
Going back to the opening story of that gentleman’s job search, people can spend months applying to black holes online. What a relief to get such a quick, direct response!
There is a lot to unpack from that story, so I’ll summarize:
- My network was the catalyst, though I actually didn’t know either beneficiary.
- Utilizing connections is the fastest way to find what you are looking for in many cases.
- The wider the network, the more likely the success in just about any scenario (worker, business owner, consumer).
- People want to help people.
- Don’t be afraid to ask.
There are different applications to this connection part depending on what you are trying to achieve, and the value you are trying to offer. An artist may connect differently than a salesperson. Over time, I’ll try to speak differently about some of that. For now, let me give you some advice on connection towards the typical, everyday career progression type. LinkedIn.com has become the standard go to place to connect with professionals. Make sure you have an account and treat it as a live resume for yourself, but take it beyond that in ways that you can’t do with a resume. I did so by writing. I always thought a lot about what a good leader should be in a company, how a company should ideally operate, and shifts that were taking place in the world as a result of technology. Since I wanted to connect with engineering managers, Directors of Engineering, VP of Engineering, etc. I wrote 2-3 posts per week on LinkedIn about these topics. While doing that, I reached out to people I’d like to get to know and send a message asking to connect that read, “Hello, I write posts about Engineering Leadership and Technology with a few inspirational posts sprinkled in. You can see samples of the posts on my profile, and I’d like to connect if you think they are valuable.” I started getting a lot of accepts. And even for those I had never met, they started to know me online after commenting on some of the posts. My “art” was leading to the connections. And that’s the way the world works. If you’re making something, you should be showing it to people. “Choose. Create. Connect.” only works in that order. First, you have to choose what to do. Next you have to create your work, your “art”. Then you connect it to people who are happy to hear about it, or see it.
If you didn’t read my last message on creating I recommend that you do that. The perspective of continually creating like Picasso and Hemingway are equally valuable when it comes to connection. Connection isn’t something you do when you’re ready, it’s continuous. If I had waited until I needed it, I wouldn’t have been able to help that gentleman in the story earlier. I wouldn’t have said, “Yea, I can help you find a job, first though, let me go out and connect with hundreds of people so I can pull this off for you.” That’s fantasy. If I had no connections, I would have just said, “Sorry. I don’t know anyone.”
It’s important to find your audience when don’t have anything to sell to them, so that they know what you’re offering when you do have something they might be interested in. I’m using “sell” loosely here. It could mean trying to get a job you want. It could be asking for likes on a social media account. It could be spreading a message or set of beliefs. It doesn’t have to be a good or service for purchase, though it certainly could be if they are interested in that.
The most valuable thing in the world is connection. To illustrate this point, let’s look at a controversial figure like Donald Trump. There are a million theories out there about why he won the presidential election. It was the Russians. Everyone is racist. “Make America Great Again” was the only slogan that was memorable. My theory is simple, he was the only candidate that had been actively connecting with people on social media for years. He built his audience and so his messages were magnified. That’s how he got through a competitive primary for sure. No other republican had fans. He did.
I don’t want my message here to get mixed up with Donald Trump himself. You don’t have to like him, or have the same values, rather that you can choose to build your connections, your own little micro-community with people who like what you like and believe what you believe in several ways. Here are some ways:
- Email list
- YouTube Channel
- LinkedIn Groups/Posts/Articles
- Instagram (Anything visual/ art especially)
- Discord/Discourse Communities
The cost of doing so is minimal, though the effort may be high. Like anything in life, it’s all effort vs. value. The problem is most people are bad at calculating the value of their connections, so they never do the work to build them. The reason that calculation is hard is because you don’t know what will come out of them, it’s a combination of so many factors, true value will never be clear. Here are some thoughts to make sure you understand how valuable they are:
- Career Safety Net – I’m happy at my job, but if I decided I was tired of it, I could quit and be covered, I’m sure I would find something quick enough. I have 800+ leads to start with that are much warmer than a job portal online.
- Advice seeking.
- Personal recommendations.
- Learning from professionals who are in different industries.
I’m going to end here. There is a lot of information to deal with about connection, but hopefully you now understand the value. It took me years longer than it should have to understand it myself, and I wish I would have gotten started sooner. Don’t be me, be smarter.
P.S. This message is the most important one that I’ve written so far. More people in the world would feel less anxious about their future, more bold in their careers, and more committed to their dreams if they understood this message. Which is why I’m going to leave you with some exercises.
Three exercises for connecting
- Write down who you would like to connect with to achieve your goals.
- Write down who wouldn’t be able to help you achieve those goals.
- Connect with 10 people who fit in category #1.
- Send this article to an acquaintance you could build a stronger relationship with if you think they could get value out of it. Sharing valuable information is part of connecting after all.
None of this is Right is about seeing opportunities to apply creativity, patience, courage and generosity to improve your life and the lives of those around you. The great part is that it doesn’t require and specialized knowledge or experience. If you can’t see those opportunities, or if a reminder is useful from time to time, subscribing below is valuable. I generally send 1 email a month, so it’s low effort on the inbox management.