I found some good advice on Lifehacker today about building a professional network. Not just having 500 connections on Linkedin, but having a real professional network made up of people who help one another advance their careers.
I stumbled into this completely by accident.
My former company lost its contract in March. I think they’ll have it back soon enough, but not soon enough to save my job. With no other contracts in St. Louis, they had to lay me off in April. No hard feelings–they’re a company of 80–oops, make it 70–people and just didn’t have any place to put me. They tried, and they even won a contract using my resume and my suddenly former boss’ resume, only to be told a few days later that the funding was delayed indefinitely.
I have a former coworker who’s never shy about telling me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. I called him a few hours after I found out we lost the contract. He wasn’t in the position to hire me or anything, and I knew it, but I wanted his advice. He was in position to put me in contact with some people and help me get an interview or two.
One of those people was a guy I indirectly replaced. Based on the stories I’d heard about him at my previous job, I figured we’d get along fine. When we finally did meet, we did. But for weeks before we met in person, he sent my resume to every recruiter he knows, which is pretty much every recruiter in the St. Louis area.
Another one of those people was another former coworker. I had three weeks to learn how to do his job while he was in the process of becoming a former coworker. That left an impression on him. When he needed some temporary help to finish up a project he was managing, he asked if I was interested. He was up front with me. It wasn’t a permanent gig. But it would be steady work for about six months, and the pay was very good.
I said I was interested, and a week or two later, he offered me the gig.
He knew what he was getting: Someone who could adapt well to the new environment, apply past experience to this project, and give 100% until the project was done.
And even though it’s a temporary gig, that’s an opportunity in itself. I’ve seen people come in to temp gigs, do a great job for a few months, and then someone hires them permanently. Even if it’s a different manager than the temporary one, it’s still a job.
And in the meantime, I’m working in a room full of high achievers I can learn from for a few months. There’s nothing wrong with that.
My mistake? Well, I don’t have 10 people like that. I probably could. But like the article says, I need to make an effort to stay in touch.