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    March 13, 2009

    Networking grows more crucial in economic downturn

    When I first graduated from college, I wasn't sure what to do with myself. A friend of mine from Germany, who was about to move back, had an internship at an online news agency focusing on developing world issues. She asked me if I might be interested in this type of thing. Why the heck not, I thought to myself. And poof! I was the new D.C. office intern at this news agency. I did not realize it at the time, but I was harnessing the power of networking.

    In the time since, I would say that 50% of my career opportunities have in some way come thru my networks. And I am, what I would call, a network "underutilizer"-I am generally hesitant to use my personal and professional networks for career advancement.

    But in difficult economic times, personal relationships are growing increasingly important for not only personal and organizational growth, but for basic survival. The odds are in the networkers favor.

    Recently I received the following email with the following subject line from my Alma Mater:

    Subject: "Hire a Hoya!"

    Part of the body of the email included the following:

    "I am writing today to ask for your support of fellow members of the Georgetown community, particularly those who are preparing to embark upon their journey into the professional world outside of Healy Gates. Georgetown's dedication to educating yet another generation of conscientious leaders who make a disproportionate difference in the world makes these young, bright and passionate students eager and willing to take on new challenges and embrace new opportunities. Fellow alumni may also be looking to embark on a new professional endeavor or transition given the economic conditions of today. You have the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of both."

    The email then went on with helpful suggestions as to how we, the alumni community, could benefit from the eager young minds, just a few months away from graduation:

    "Open doors for fellow alumni and students...
    • Harness the enthusiasm and mind of a current student by hiring a summer intern to take on innovative projects at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee.
    • Hire an eager graduating senior into their first position after graduation.
    • Tap into the expertise of fellow alumni by hiring those who have been building upon their Georgetown education and foundation in a variety of industries.
    • Share your expertise with students and alumni alike who are excited to connect with you."

    In the years since I have graduated college, (and ok, it's not that many), I have been contacted numerous times through email and mail, like all alumni, to participate in local alumni events, donate, network, but never had the request to hire been so direct, and in some ways, so desperate. Basic message: we've got kids graduating college, on-campus recruitment is down, and we've got to get them into jobs! That's what a college education is supposed to get you!

    At a recent event I attended, author and consultant Dave Evans, spoke of the "social network funnel" for both product and personal use.

    While the funnels may be somewhat different, the key to both from a social networking perspective, according to Dave, was the feedback loop, that has become both instantaneous and real-time in a constantly connected world.

    How you present yourself to your networks is key. Dave's suggestion for organization that haven't started on the networking process? Start by listening.

    Google yourself (your organization). Subscribe to an RSS reader and put in key words that are relevant to you. If need be, pay for listening intelligence.

    Almost anyone I know my age has at some point Google themselves. But how many organizations regularly keep up with what the online and social "network" is saying about them? If listening is the first step, becoming part of the conversation, and even learning to manage it's direction is advanced level super Mario Brothers. Who's got the handle on that? No one I know of. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't actively engage in learning how to.

    Dave Evans suggested that there were three key networks currently to focus on from a personal perspective (I am paraphrasing here):

    1) LinkedIn: People I know professionally/have seen me "operate" (I would say this is your "narrowest network)

    2) Facebook/Myspace: People who've met my kids/wife/partner/know about that night in college...

    3) Twitter: People who at some point in the future may be able to answer a question I might have

    If these are the three key personal networks, then what are the three key organizational networks to be engaged in. My opinion, the only one that is currently different is #1:

    1) YouTube: Show the world what my organization is doing

    2) Facebook/Myspace: Tell the world about me and how they can find out more about me

    3) Twitter: Update and get Feedback from the world about "what my organization is doing right now. Folks in PR departments, don't panic, TwitterWall lets you post in more than 140 characters.

    Special note: the three networks above, are of course, subject to rapid and unexpected change. Just aske the folks at Friendster.

    Thanks so much to Mayra Ruiz-McPherson for slides/great evening with Social media minded folk in DC/herding great speakers!

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