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Allen White

Build Your Personal Network

Recently a few people have approached me privately about their careers, and how they can make the changes to allow them to do the kind of work they'd like to do, be it consulting or in a full-time role.

(In every case, I was flattered and surprised, as I never felt I had that much insight into career choices.)

The most important thing, I told each of them, was to use the network of people you know. You will always be more successful finding opportunities through personal contacts than you will through any agency or service. Always. You can expand that network by attending meetings, be they user group meetings, PTA meetings, scouting meetings, running club meetings, whatever, but you build that network by going to the places where people with like interests gather, and talking to them.

Now, the worst thing you can do when talking with people is tell them you're looking for opportunities. People in a position to provide those opportunities are very rarely activily looking for someone, they just want to attend the meeting to hang with people with similar interests. So how do you find out about them?

You listen. Plain and simple, you talk about your common interests, and you ask about their interests. What they do will come out. Ask about what problems they have. Ask about how they've approached the problems, about what's worked and what hasn't worked. Offer your experiences as it applies to the problems they're having.

If you've been truly interested, and your ideas make sense to the other person, they may be in a position to ask you to help them solve their problems. Ding!

The most important things you can do for yourself, is to get to know people, and to listen. People really do want to talk about their problems, and if you are perceived as the kind of person who will listen, you'll be the kind of person they'll want to work with to get those problems solved.

So, get out of your house at night and get to know people. Watch your kids play soccer, or baseball, or hockey, and chat with the other parents, and get to know them. Get out there and run with a club, and get to know the people you're running with. (My closest, most important friends I have in the world, are the ones I got to know while running. It's amazing the things you share when you're running for four hours together, training for a marathon. And I mean sharing in a good way.)

Once people trust you, they'll want you as part of their lives, and there's where your opportunities can come.


Published Wednesday, March 9, 2011 2:06 PM by AllenMWhite
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Steve jones said:

Excellent advice

March 9, 2011 2:04 PM

Paras said:

Thanks! will keep in mind - personal contact!

March 9, 2011 3:30 PM

unclebiguns said:

Great advice!  Wish we could get everyone at our user group meetings to talk like you've suggested.  Some do, and they get opportunities.

March 9, 2011 4:26 PM

Mark Holmes said:

Excellent advice - I ignored the same thing for almost 20 years, and then realized the value.  It's beyond measure.  

As for socializing and meeting people - it's hard for a lot of geeks like me to do, so I avoided it.  But then I found a few that admitted it was just as hard for them, so I figured - why not take a risk?  I'm no social butterfly, but when geeks around me start talking, I'm more likely to join in.

March 9, 2011 4:33 PM

Kimberly L. Tripp said:

Well said Allen! This is actually something that we really encourage at our classes as well...networking, discussing problems/solutions. As unique as every SQL Server environment is - there are always things you can learn about what's worked (and what hasn't) for other applications.

And, just recently, we've heard from one attendee of last year's August Immersion Event that he joined the company of another Immersion Event attendee from that class. He emailed to let us know to update his email address. How cool is that!

So, you're right! The more you network, chat, discuss - and get to know people - the better off you will be and the more opportunities that will come!!



March 9, 2011 4:35 PM

Karen Lopez said:

Excellent take on what networking really is: talking to people, sharing ideas.  It's not about collecting business cards and handshakes.

I would tell people who are "between projects" to go ahead and tell people that you are looking for your next project.  BUT - that should not be your opening line or the theme of a conversation.  If it is the theme, then you'll come across as "I need something from you, give it to me".  First make the connection, then leverages it when you've already provided value to others.

Networking and Brand building is something you do when you don't need a network or a brand.  If you wait to build them when you need them, it's too late.

March 9, 2011 4:36 PM

Grant Fritchey said:

Excellent stuff Allen, as usual. Great advice too.

March 9, 2011 7:39 PM

Niko Neugebauer said:

Very nice written and very true indeed.

I have seen way too many times people "jumping around" and asking for a favor even before they ask the name of the person they are talking to.

Trust is always the key, that's why the best jobs in the world do not appear on the free market - first of all people are looking into their connection, asking for personal references - in order to find someone they can really trust.

March 9, 2011 8:26 PM

Rick Heiges said:

Excellent Post!

March 9, 2011 10:43 PM

John Sterrett said:

Great advice Allen. This is exactly how I got my last job. I never submitted a resume until the director said, "um... we are going to need a resume for Hr."

March 10, 2011 7:56 AM

Joe Webb said:

Nice, Allen!

The number one reason I attend conferences and user groups is to talk with people. Hearing sessions is good, but it's getting to know other people that really makes the trip worth while for me.


March 12, 2011 9:41 AM
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About AllenMWhite

Allen White is a consultant and mentor for Upsearch Technology Services in Northeast Ohio. He has worked as a Database Administrator, Architect and Developer for over 30 years, supporting both the Sybase and Microsoft SQL Server platforms over that period.

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