As a business major hoping to one day get hired by a Fortune 500 company, work for a large financial firm or start my own business as an entrepreneur (can you tell how unsure I am about my prospective career path?), I have been told many times that grades and a stellar resume alone won’t cut it. That is, having a top-quality grade point average will not ensure that I will be recruited by the companies on which I have set my sights or guarantee my success if I chose to start my own business. Indeed, striving to perform well in all of my classes and maximize my GPA is certainly important. Still, any professor in the Fox School of Business, all of the staff members in the Center for Student Professional Development and professionals in many spaces will underscore the importance of professional networking.
I was motivated to blog about this topic after I read an article titled, “4 Steps to Networking with Thought Leaders in Your Industry” and doing some self-reflection. The article points out that just about fifty percent of all job seekers utilize networking as a means to securing a job. Or, as we discussed in class, close to a majority of job hunters seek out and work to maximize the “weak ties” they gain. As discussed in class, a strong tie is considered to be a friend we have who knows us, while a weak tie is more of an acquaintance. It is interesting that networking is a form of a weak tie and ironically, with professional development and career paths in mind, it seems much more important or helpful than the ties we have with our closer friends.
Next, after some reflection, I finally came to terms with that honest fact that I would not refer some of my close friends for certain jobs that they are interested in. Although I may be very close with some of my friends, I discovered that in some instances – or depending on the person to which I would be referring them – I would be apprehensive because my friend’s conduct in the interview or on the job could reflect poorly on me. Moreover, I would be worried because, as a close friend, I know my friends’ weaknesses – some of which may affect the way they perform on the job. In some respects, I tend to put the interests of the workplace ahead of my friends. And in other respects, I want to make sure they I remain a reputable employee. I may be a horrible friend, but I would not be surprised if others feel the same way. To this end, I believe that individuals with weaker ties find it easier to remain positive about someone who made a good impression on them.
Since I am still trying to discover my career passion, I have been having many conversations with professors and business professionals. At Johnson & Johnson, where I currently intern, I had the chance to speak with a senior-level executive who provided a lot of insight. He mentioned that, on average, people have and will continue to change their career between three to five times. If this is true, then this is a strong indication that building a network is critical to finding and keeping a job. This is especially the case when you think about how jobs are pursued nowadays. You can: network, go through a search firm, find “want ads,” create your own job through entrepreneurial pursuits, or blindly send out your resume and hope for the best. With all options considered, it seems that the best option would be one which presents the possibilities that current employees will vouch for your skills, experience and “fit” within an organization or employers will offer you an opportunity based on the interactions you had with them. These weak ties place people like me in a position to make an impression on those willing to give me an opportunity. It is difficult to take advantage of this unless there is a conscious effort to get out of the comfort zones of our strong ties and pursue weaker ones.
Gavin R. Grant