Throughout the '90s, the battle cry of the unemployed was: "network, network, network." A snappy letter would invariably be followed by an even-snappier resume, both of which were then circulated to every potential PR employer and headhunter in the free world.
This networking process worked just fine in the era of double-digit PR growth, There were plenty of jobs to go around for even the most inexperienced PR people.
Well, now that this much-discussed recession has been officially declared by Washington, D.C., numbers crunchers jobs have become scarce. Job-seekers who have been networking feverishly are finding that their efforts are yielding only marginal results at best.
Few if any solid leads or interviews are materializing. Networking always worked before, they say; why isn't it working now?
>Networking is passe
In case you haven't heard, networking is passe. We're in a new millennium, embroiled in a war against enemies more frightening than ever before, and ever-watchful of the stock market's reaction to all of it.
This recession is different and thus so is job-hunting. Prior to the just-finished golden age of PR, communications professionals didn't know about networking.
Only one method yielded the desired results, and that was relationship-building. Yes, there is a difference. Adherents to relationship-building (R-B) know this method as the only one that garners continuously positive results.
Networking involves "getting the word out." It's a shot-gun approach.
R-B involves strategy, research and thinking, all of which hopefully results in actually interacting with someone on a personal level. It's a multi-step process, while networking is a practice that turns on and off like a toggle switch.
Start working on r-b now
R-B is something that you do whether you're working or not. In fact, your best opportunity for person-to-person interaction occurs when you are already employed.
And since PR people on average change jobs every 2.5 years, R-B takes on even greater importance while one is working at a full-time job.
Some people are just natural-born R-Bers. Call them schmoozers, glad-handers, extroverts, whatever the term -- they are working at it every day, constantly making the extra effort and devoting the time to nurture relationships.
They know that it's more than just putting business cards into Rolodexes and phone numbers into Palm-Pilots. That's why R-Bers tend to get more referrals when job-hunting. Whether it's to pay someone back for favors done before or because of a genuine concern for another person with whom they have a good relationship - - it all adds up to a "people" dynamic that's hard to quantify.
PR pros should develop and maintain contacts with colleagues, editors and clients. Pay attention to the minutiae of casual conversation and make mental notes - if someone's got a sick relative, inquire. Someone's had a baby? Send a card. Congratulate a client or associate when you read or hear of his/her accomplishment(s). Offer encouragement to someone who's having trouble with a project.
Frivolous though they may seem, often it's these tiny gestures that will make others remember and recommend you for promotions, projects and jobs whenever they can.
How you interact with people, whether you're employed or not, will matter most when you need a helping hand. Professional reputations cannot be bought, and nowadays it's the candidate whose name carries good word-of-mouth who'll get hired.