As Rochester knows well, when companies make layoffs, even veteran employees are not safe. In the last two decades, Eastman Kodak Co. has let go more than two-thirds of its workforce, including some 40,000 people locally. Xerox Corp. cut hundreds as recently as February.
No longer is it safe to trust your future to the company for which you work. Wise employees with foresight know this and seek protection against the pink slip. That protection comes in the form of professional networks. A vibrant network is your best insurance policy against sudden unemployment.
Today, loyalty and security are increasingly provided by our personal networks. Via online social networking and "meet-up" groups, more people are putting their faith in friends and colleagues, not in employers who could cut them loose at a moment’s notice.
Network often and effectively. Meeting and nurturing lasting relationships with other professionals is a proven career-enhancing technique that can lead to a new job, increased sales or industry knowledge or, simply, advice. Meeting others for a meal or drink helps to build bonds of trust and friendship, making people more likely to do helpful things for one another, such as relay a job lead.
In the digital age, information spreads quickly. A strong network of contacts can help us stay in the know and become and remain resourceful thought leaders in our fields, making a layoff less likely and, for those let go, quickly landing a new job more likely.
Online networking tools take the hassle out of traditional networking by helping us find and connect with precisely the people we most want to meet, and on our own schedules. Offline networking events, on the other hand, are crapshoots planned at someone else’s convenience, where meeting anyone useful is far from assured.
When we routinely eat lunch at our desks or with the same co-workers day after day, we limit our networking potential as well as the ideas and information that influence our lives. Instead, we should use that free time we already have to connect with people at different companies in the same or similar industries or with people different from us who offer insights from professional pursuits different from our own.
Research at Stanford University has shown that "weak ties"–casual interactions with people we rarely see–are an important factor when it comes to getting a job. People with more weak ties spend less time searching for a job. On the contrary, people we know best and see most often, who have much of the same information we do, are among the least helpful to a job search.
Do not underestimate the value of professional networking. Seek out and exploit new tools that make networking easier.
Jess Sadick is founder of Down4Lunch.com, a free, online professional networking tool that recently debuted in Rochester.
9/16/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail email@example.com.