Fun fact. I’m only two degrees from Kevin Bacon.
Everyone says, to get a job you must network. Why? Why do people want you to dress up in a sweaty suit and shake hands with strangers at events you would never go to otherwise?
For those of you who are uninitiated, Kevin Bacon is an actor. The game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, was a mental exercise where you would name a random obscure actor or celebrity, and then try to connect them to Kevin Bacon within six steps. Mike Tyson boxed this guy who played a bit part a movie that also had Kevin Spacey who was in a movie with some other guy who was in a movie with Kevin Bacon. Bam!
The same rule proves true with networking. You’re looking for something and someone else has it. The logic follows that you probably don’t have what you want at the moment because your regular connections don’t have it, so if you start meeting new people who are outside of your regular circle of acquaintances, you may meet someone who has, or knows someone who has what you’re looking for.
That’s a really nice idea and it makes a lot of sense, but what it ends up doing is sending tons of people off to job fairs to frantically hand out resumes and business cards, and accost anyone who might have a job for them on the way. This is called desperation, and we’ve all been there, but despite that fact, we also shy away from anyone who seems desperate. Silly, but true.
The funny thing is, you are your own little Kevin Bacon. Everyone is their own little Kevin Bacon. The art of making connections is pretty simple. Everyone wants to be treated like a person. They want to be listened to, understood, and treated the way they view themselves.
Jobs can come down many different pipelines and it’s very hard to predict which one or when. No matter how hard you try, you may not end up getting a job through networking. That said, networking really helps. People, even if they don’t have jobs available, are often aware of other jobs, places to work, or new industries, etc.
My personal opinion on networking is that it’s more interesting if it’s casual. Unless you are super directed and know exactly what you’re looking for, you’re probably in an exploratory space, and may not have figured out exactly what you’re trying to do next.
When you’re able to have regular conversations with people, about who you are, what you like, what you do, who they are, what they like, etc., they are able to feel more comfortable around you and converse regularly with you as well.
When you’re talking to people casually, you learn secondary facts about them, and give secondary facts about yourself. You will learn about their side projects, hobbies, travels, passions, and they may learn about yours. Or, you may have nothing in common. It’s really hard to control for this. But, if you do talk to a bunch of people, you will eventually find people that you get along with, or are interested by, and have brief or long conversations with them.
The great thing about learning new things about other people is that you may know different people who share something in common with them. You become the degree of separation between them and their Kevin Bacon. You may not get this person a job, but you may learn they are an equestrian and realize you know someone who is selling a horse.
Congratulations! You just made a connection. Honing this skill will make you better at doing it for yourself.
While networking, you aren’t going to jive with everyone, and you won’t have long drawn out conversations with everyone you meet. You may, after 5–10 events, not meet anyone who really fits into what I am describing. People are pretty variable and talking to people is a very soft skill that is developed over time.
The most important thing to do is to go to events that you either enjoy or think are important. Then, once you are at those events, just talk to people. Find the parts of them that you can enjoy. The rest should follow suit.
Very important busy people, often respond differently. They view their time as being more valuable, and they will view you waffling around with them as you choosing to waste a precious resource: their time. This is also very context sensitive. If you meet an important person at a networking event without specific questions to ask them, they may get frustrated. If you meet them at a casual function and you start asking them specific questions when they are trying to relax, they may get frustrated. Either way just remember this, the world is full of important people, so don’t take it personally if you don’t know what to do around them all of the time.
About the amazing author:
Martin Lynn is an independent musician and author. If you would like to get in touch with him please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
More writing: medium.com/@kylesdogshead