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Network your way through uncertain times

Oil prices, bank crisis, China-Russia, traffic, Amazon laying off an additional 9,000 employees, etc. we are surely in a time of uncertainty. But of course, looking at this through different lenses most things in life are uncertain, and that couldn't be more true of your professional career. In a world where market conditions that are out of your control may impact your advancement in a company (or even position), the only way to navigate through this sea of uncertainty you focus on what you can control. The main thing is your daily input of social media sites, your health, your job, how you respond to others, your family responsibilities, and probably the most important thing for your career is your NETWORKS.

I remember during the pandemic, things were also out of people’s control: there were massive layoffs, and people lost their job regardless of how well they performed, or their tenure at the company. How did I see some people control their path back on course and land other roles? Often times what we think matters: experience, knowledge, and competence don’t weigh heavy as we think when finding a new role. What did matter: connections, or people’s network.

During this time I saw some very smart, ethical, and good people (engineers and salespeople alike) unable to land a new role (even after months of searching). It wasn’t because they didn’t have the experience or knowledge (after all after a certain time in any industry those come hand in hand), it was because they didn’t know anyone at the company they were applying to, they didn’t know anyone who could connect them to opportunities that didn’t come across LinkedIn, they didn’t know anyone who knew someone looking for someone. In short, their time and tenure at a company was their only differentiator.

Conclusion: being a rockstar in your current role, doesn't guarantee you advancement or secure your next opportunity.

I also saw some people who, in my opinion, weren’t as ethical or even as good engineers/salespeople land roles even before word got out that they lost their job. How did they do this? Through their networks. They KNEW people who were building a team, they KNEW people who knew people who were looking for someone, and they KNEW people who would help them look for their new roles (acting as their eyes and ears on potential opportunities).

Conclusion: there comes a time or a point in everyone's career where it’s not what you know that matters, it’s who you know that takes precedence.

The thing with networks and connections is that they take time to develop. In the case of the good engineer who couldn’t land a role, they began building their connections after they needed them, or better stated: they networked when they needed to network (when it would benefit them). This was during the rush to connect and sniff out the next opportunity in not just the oilfield, but in most industries. In the case of the unethical engineer, their networks were established long before they needed them. They had already developed the bonds and networks that made their search for their new role tremendously easier than for most.

Conclusion: build the network that you need tomorrow today.

On the other side of the table in regards to networking: if I was looking for a good new engineer or salesperson to hire, and I didn’t have a strong network I would have to base my decision on a resume, and a brief interview or two. If my networks were weak I wouldn’t be able to ask around about this individual to get a sense of their reputation or how they conducted their business. So I move forward and hire them, and because I just didn’t have my finger on the pulse it could be extremely detrimental to my operations and production! On the other hand, if I had a strong network and I needed to fill a role and deal with the uncertainty and cost of a headhunter, advertising for the role, and all the other processes when searching for a candidate in a sea of resumes, I could simply go into my Rolodex or have an idea of the person I’ve been impressed by and would be perfect for the role. Even if I didn't know the person I wanted to hire, someone in my network that I trusted could make a strong recommendation on someone.

Conclusion: Make an effort to continue to expand your networks, both during good times and bad.

The world works off of networks, the stronger yours is, the better connected you will be when it matters.

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