When students first begin college, they may think that obtaining their degree will be enough to have the kind of career they want.
While earning a degree is a huge accomplishment, other factors play a huge role into getting not only the first job, but all jobs after. Who you know can be a big part of it. How you utilize who you know is an even bigger part of it.
In a National Public Radio interview for, All Things Considered, Matt Youngquist, the president of Career Horizons stated, "At least 70 percent, if not 80 percent, of jobs are not published. He further said, "And yet most people — they are spending 70 or 80 percent of their time surfing the net versus getting out there, talking to employers, taking some chances [and] realizing that the vast majority of hiring is friends and acquaintances hiring other trusted friends and acquaintances." Despite these overwhelming odds, it’s amazing how many students spend countless hours sending out blind resumes to online job announcements.
Successful networking is one of those soft skills that pays off exponentially. Research shows that networking is a great way to land a new job. It also is vital to staying employed, salary growth, and job satisfaction.
Before you can successfully network, you have to have a good understanding of your networking and the communication style you are most comfortable with.
Malcom Gladwell, in his book the “Tipping Point” identifies three classes of personalities and explains how each network or interact with others.
Connectors are the people who have widespread personal and professional networks. Their work often involves spreading ideas. With their wide reaching group of friends and acquaintances, connectors can spread a message rapidly to a receptive audience. Gladwell uses the story of Paul Revere’s midnight ride to demonstrate the role of connectors.
Maven (originally a Yiddish word) is a connoisseur or expert in a subject. Mavens have a deep understanding in a specific subject area. Mavens enjoy sharing their knowledge, but more importantly, feel a need to take a deep dive into a subject area. What makes mavens so effective is not their persuasiveness (that falls under the realm of the salesmen), but their extensive understanding of a subject. The information mavens gather is often what connectors spread.
Salesmen specialize in the art of persuasion. These are the people who strive to convince others of "needs" that may or may not exist. They know how to “Make It Stick!” Salesmen are masters at making ideas, products and information simpler and more attractive and memorable.
How do you tell the difference between a Connector, Maven and a Salesmen?
People have a bit of each characteristic as part of their personality. However, there is a place where you feel most comfortable and that often is in the role of Maven. This role seems to have the least risk because the Maven is speaking from their knowledge base as they make recommendations, suggestions or offer their insight. This voluntary contribution usually isn’t tied to any required outcome such as a job or career. Mavens get to choose when, where, and how they engage.
In contrast, a connector usually has a similar knowledge base as a Maven, but they regularly use this in a business or professional capacity for which they are paid. It is difficult to become a connector, because it requires the unique ability to understand a person's needs moments after meeting them. In general, connectors know everyone and everyone knows them. These people build relationships very quickly and with a lot of people. Connectors are highly valuable to any organization. They match people with opportunities and, in doing so, they leave their connections with a positive opinion of them and their abilities.
Since, Gladwell’s book was first published, many social scientists have tried to expand on this concept by developing personality assessments.
There’s an interesting article in Harvard Business Review called “How to Build Your Network” by Brian Uzzi and Sharon Dunlap. The authors analyze leaders’ communication and networking styles, their networking circles and do a comparison contrast that shows how an effective networker can effect change. Uzzi and Dunlap focus on two characters in the American Revolution.
“On the night of April 18, 1775, two Sons of Liberty raced on horseback from Boston to warn residents that British soldiers were marching toward Lexington and Concord. While Paul Revere rode into history, his fellow rider, William Dawes, galloped into undeserved oblivion.”
Though both men had perilous journeys and made a significant contribution to a poignant time in history, we only remember the actions of Paul Revere. Little to nothing is mentioned about William Dawes’ journey and his ability to avoid capture by the British during his attempt to warn the masses. Why then, is Revere remembered for his feat and immortalized in history? Is it because of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere?” Or, could it be something else in relations to their different networking techniques?
Uzzi and Dunlap suggest that one of the reasons Paul Revere was so successful in his fateful ride was because he was a “connector.” Revere had a large social network that bridged different circles. In contrast, Dawes’ social network was less diverse and more inbred. He knew people who were similar to him and everyone in his network knew each other.
Are you a Paul Revere, or possibly a William Dawes or somewhere in the middle? Knowing your networking style is the first step to developing a strategy to expand and strengthen your network. Remember, 80 percent of the people find jobs through networking!
About the Author: Teri Grier is a part-time instructor at Southwestern Oregon Community College and a nationally recognized Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. She has over 15 years’ experience onboarding, training and managing teams. She is a graduate from Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies where she received a graduate certificate in Leadership Coaching. In addition to her coaching credentials, she has a Master’s in Public Administration and a BS in Communications from Northern Arizona University.