I think the best way to prove to you that networking really works is to show you some success stories. The first in my new series features Chadd Scott.
I have worked in the sports media either in radio, on-line, or both for over 15 years. Truth be told, I’ve only been “in the business” about two years. That is the amount of time I’ve valued and comprehended the power of relationships and networking. I thought being smart would get me ahead. I thought I’d rise up the professional ladder by being more experienced, by working harder, by being more talented. I was 100% wrong.
Talent won’t get you a job. Hard work won’t get you a job. Brains won’t get you a job. Friends and contacts will.
I’m living proof. I had been out of radio the past 15 months sending out resumes and uncovering every rock I could think. None of it worked. And I’m damn good at what I do. I’ve produced three major nationally syndicated talk shows – big ones you’ve heard of – I’ve produced afternoon drive in a top-10 market, I have a degree in Journalism from a highly-respected university, and more knowledge and experience in radio than 99% of everyone in the industry. That’s not bragging, I say it to reinforce to you how hard it can be to land a job. Despite a resume and references most people would kill for, I couldn’t find a job because for the first 13 years of my career I didn’t value relationships. I paid no attention to networking.
Further proof of this comes from the job I did land. It was through one of the few relationships I did value and keep over the years. It was through someone I stayed in touch with for SIX YEARS! I would email this program director every 6-18 months to remind him that I existed and then I found myself travelling to the city he worked in. I set up a lunch appointment with him and our conversation was going nowhere after 30 minutes. Around that mark we started talking about the station’s website and his desire to improve it and my new focus on website content and social media and – BOOM! – all of a sudden our conversation had traction.
Over the course of the next several months we communicated and looked at his station’s needs and my abilities and created a role for me that didn’t exist and was not advertised. And I snatched it up. (This story also speaks to another critical aspect of your employability: versatility. Media jobs are few and far between and very few people are hiring “one trick ponies.” Can you host a talk show? Anchor an update? Cover a press conference? Report in the field? Run a board? Book a guest? What web skills do you have? Adobe Audition? Social Media? The more boxes you can mark off, the more likely you are to be hired.)
I had the talent all along, what I didn’t have was the connection, a friend, with a job. As soon as I found one I was employed again. I can’t stress this enough: how talented you are doesn’t matter, how hard you work doesn’t matter, how many professional relationships you have, how big your network is, how closely you stay in contact with those people makes ALL the difference.
Building and maintaining a professional network takes effort, but it’s not exhausting and the results are undeniable. Make friends with the people you currently work with; reach back out to former co-workers. Drop them an email or Facebook/Twitter message every few months… and keep it up. Networking never ends as long as you want a career. Make networking your job because your next job will be dependant upon the networking you’ve done.