I have been going to visit various schools with my son during this football recruiting season, and if I didn’t know it before, I definitely know it now – this multi-billion dollar industry is a machine. 

I have learned so much about how the machine is kept well-oiled and one thing in particular really caught my attention because it connects directly into career development and transition. Without exception, there appears to be an absolute reliance on networking in this industry. They could quite honestly be the poster children for this particular skill.

As we met with each coaching staff and learned a little bit about them, the theme of building their staff via networking connections surfaced over and over again. One coach plainly told me “I don’t hire people I don’t know.”

Hiring managers have similar philosophies in that they don’t want to wade through a pile of resumes, 80% of which have nothing to do with their job posting. They would much rather have someone they know and trust, refer them to someone – which means the vetting has for the most part, already been done.

I have worked with hundreds of professionals actively in their job search and the one skill that is most overlooked and underutilized tends to be networking.

With the advent of the job board so many people have lost this extremely essential skill. You can now go to multiple job boards and do the “one click” apply or resume “upload” and the ease of this process lures many professionals into thinking that they are doing an active job search when in fact they are starting at the bottom of the food chain.

It’s understandable in a way because over the years, Networking has gotten a bad rap. 

Instead of a focus on getting to know interesting people or building relationships, it has become an exercise in going to an “event” and trying to connect with a bunch of people that you don’t know with a clear agenda of getting something from them. 

That very unnatural process tends to turn most professionals off.

I personally love to network and I don’t really think of it as networking as I am doing it. It really is just about getting to know interesting people or indulging my curiosity. What I have noticed is that this has often led very naturally to making new friends or meeting clients.

One example that immediately comes to mind for me occurred when a friend invited me to join an early morning breakfast group that she attends. I accepted and joined and had a great time. 

Over the course of the conversation, it just so happens that a couple of my favorite topics – meaningful work and quality of life in career – came up.

I was able to share my heart and even give a few tips and when I left that meeting, I felt great about the fact that I had met some great people and enjoyed a nice breakfast. 

The next week I came back and one of the ladies that I did not get a chance to meet the week before heard that I was a career coach and she immediately connected with me to ask about how I might be able to help a friend of hers.

Now, I did not go to the early morning breakfast with any agenda. My goal was to have a good time and meet some new people, but a very natural opportunity to share what I did came up and a very strong lead was generated with no effort on my part. 

That is how networking should work – an authentic, natural everyday part of life.

Do you take advantage of every opportunity to build connections in a natural way? Why not try it out and see what a difference it can make as you move your career and life forward!