By Lisa Dempsey
It really goes without saying that networking is a vital component in careers and business. It’s not really a new thing, but in the modern age it’s something that can be easily scaled to huge proportions. Anyone who uses LinkedIn will be familiar with the types of things I’m talking about – you can use your connections and their networks to keep up to date with what is going on in the market, who is working where and on what projects, and so on, and with things like recommendations, people can gather a good picture of you in a professional context. It’s not the be-all and end-all by any means, but the fact remains that a good network will help you in the world of work.
Networks and recruitment
Many of our clients, big and small, ask us to send people that we know and like – ‘know’ as in have worked with us previously; ‘like’ as in we have received good feedback on them (from having worked with us before, or from people we know in the market). This is always a challenge for us recruiters as we never actually work side by side with candidates, which means that a proportion of our perception of someone has to come from another person’s opinion.
When we submit CVs to our clients, we include a page called a cover sheet – this includes standard information like contact details of the recruiter, along with information regarding the potential candidate; think salary expectations, locations and additional notes such as references. In some cases, certain clients as for specifics, such as an internal reference (their previous line manager or someone they dealt with when they worked with the organisation previously) or someone they know that works in the organisation that they have worked with elsewhere who is aware of their capabilities and how they work. In the IT contract market in central Scotland – for example – pretty much everyone is reference-able!
If the internal reference is a strategic decision maker and/or has a glowing commendation of how great you are to work with, how capable you are in your field of expertise, and how much of a team fit you would be, this can help you secure new roles without having to go through the full (and often comprehensive) recruitment process.
But what happens if one person in your network has a slightly less positive view of you?
We all know that not everyone can get on with everyone, but can that really prevent someone from securing a new role? The short and unfortunate answer is yes.
Many a time we have received feedback from a client that someone is known by someone in the team and isn’t liked, or wouldn’t be the right team fit, or even worse – the interviewer thought they were great, but their boss worked with them previously and doesn’t rate them, which can result in a couple of awkward conversations! Giving this feedback to someone is awful and there is often nothing that they (or we) could do to change the mind of the decision maker. People change, grow, learn new skills, and the person someone worked with 5 years ago could well be a very different person to who they are today. However, if people in your network know you as someone who failed to deliver a project, does not cope well under pressure, or just did not really try, it can be difficult to bounce back from that, even if the reality is completely different from the reputation.
This sort of thing can happen for less awkward reasons too. If a number of people in your network know you as a really good business analyst, this can hinder progression to project management level. My advice in this situation would be to think about the work you’ve done over the last few years and ensure that you explain your suitability for the role, using your previous experience as evidence backed up with relevant examples. It can be easier said than done, but it’s one way to try to eliminate the risk of your work history defining you.
The overarching lesson, of course, is to make sure that you leave a lasting, positive impression with everyone you deal with. Keeping in touch with key people in your network can pay off in spades!