The Power of Networking


By Cathy Milton.

You don’t have to look too long or hard to find several articles on the internet supporting the fact that up to 85% of job seekers landed their current job via networking. Even when presented with that impressive statistic, some clients may be skeptical.

I recently sat down with a friend and neighbour, a brilliant young man who just started a new job obtained via the strength of his well-maintained network. His success story may help to motivate your job-hunting clients who hesitate to engage their own networks in their search.

As background, what was your former job title and how long were you with that company?

I was Vice President of Product Management, and I was with that firm just shy of 10 years. I started out in an entry-level position as a software developer, and I worked my way up as the company went through rapid growth phases.

Were you happy at that job? Anything you didn’t like?

I was generally very happy with the job. The company’s rapid growth meant that there was never any shortage of exciting, challenging work and I was always learning. Working for a product-based software company means that knowledge of the product is power. The more I learned about the product and contributed to its success, the more choices I had in terms of the kind of work that I took on.

The flip side of this is that the work/life balance at this company was quite skewed. Lots of long hours and stressful situations were the norm. The extended hours were necessary just to keep everything above water. This wasn’t a problem when I was a new grad with few life demands outside of work, but it became progressively unmanageable as my family grew.

The company also lacked focus. There were too many competing priorities without underlying business strategies to drive them. This is typical during the start-up phase but became quite detrimental post start-up. The lack of focus contributed significantly to the work/life balance problem and resulted in lots of turnover of middle management and skilled resources.

The senior management team was also quite challenging to work with. They had been together for a few decades across different businesses. They were accustomed to a management and communication style that may have been sufficient for their own interactions but didn’t translate well into engagement with the broader employee base. The environment was quite dysfunctional most of the time.

Can you describe the sequence of events that led to your new job?

June 2017: I decided I needed a career transition for many of the reasons listed above. I re-evaluated my goals and listed my criteria for personal career satisfaction. I decided that the next step in my journey was best accomplished with a different employer.

July 2017: I started engaging with my network, letting people know that I was looking for a new role and asking them to keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities (LinkedIn is such a great tool for this!).

August 2017: One of my former colleagues (a vice president who had resigned from my previous employer) passed on a lead. She was at a conference in Toronto and sat next to the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of my new company. The COO asked her if she knew of any senior level product managers. My colleague took his business card and passed it along to me.

September 2017: I met with the COO for a beer after work. He told me about the company and I shared some highlights about myself. He thought I could be a potential fit for the company, and he recommended that I meet the CEO to further discuss their product.

October 2017: I met with the CEO. He summarized the problems his company faced from a product perspective and asked me to describe how I would solve them. We had a very interactive whiteboard session that lasted for an hour. I immediately fell in love with this CEO. He is a big-picture thinker with a massive vision for the product and is exactly the kind of leader I enjoy working for: someone with visionary ideas that I can execute against.

November 2017: I went through a formal interview and I met with the broader team (CFO, CTO). Throughout the process, we worked together to shape the role that they would ultimately offer me.

December 2017: I received a formal job offer early in the month. This was followed by a negotiation session on the compensation and terms of employment. I accepted the job offer.

January 2018: I started with the new company full time.

What were the factors leading to your decision to accept the new role?

  • Improved work/life balance.
  • Flexibility to work from home some days.
  • Autonomy in my role.
  • High-growth company.

What do you think were the main factors leading the company to offer you the job?

The biggest focus for our company right now is to scale so that we can successfully execute on aggressive growth plans. I believe I demonstrated to my employer that I have:

  • Experience creating and growing a high-performance product management team.
  • Previous success in solving specific problems that the company currently faces with the product.
  • Systematic processes to deploy in order to successfully manage products through their lifecycles and to support the company’s scale objectives.

What are your impressions of the job so far?

I’m very happy with the move so far. It’s quite chaotic, but completely in line with what I expected from a company emerging from the start-up phase. I am really enjoying having the responsibility of putting the required processes in place and the opportunities to influence the senior management team and drive decisions. Unlike my previous company, the senior management team here listen intently to my concerns and recommendations.

Any words of wisdom for job seekers out there?

I’ve always believed that your network is the most important tool you have! You cannot predict how and when your network will be key in helping you land your next role.

Keep building a strong network and put in the time to nurture and maintain it. Stay in touch through emails, phone calls, or brief meet-ups for lunch. And it’s not a one-way thing. You need to keep contributing back to your network. Share experiences and perspectives, refer good quality candidates to them, etc. Help them out with no expectation of getting anything back in return. These practices have worked for me!

If you’d like to learn how to support and guide your clients through career transition, CPC’s Career Transition Consulting course is a smart, cost-effective investment in your professional development. 

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I love how simple networking can be. Sharing a desire for change and defining the goal plants the seed. And then the universe conspires to connect the seeker with possibilities via serendipitous happenstance! Lovely story, Cathy! Thank you for sharing. I will use this story to illustrate to clients how networking can work!