Career in Your Suitcase
A practical guide to creating meaningful work... anywhere


This is a preview to the chapter Networking from the book Career in Your Suitcase by Jo Parfitt.
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The Importance of Relationships

Dr Anne Copeland, director of The Interchange Institute in Brookline MA, has conducted a series of studies into the happiness of accompanying partners. Copeland has discovered that it’s not the women who maintain close contact with their friends and family back home who adjust best, nor is it those who have a strong family unit with them on assignment. It’s the women who make new friendships who adjust most easily to their new environments. And the way we make friends is by networking.

‘Research has shown that women with strong social networks are usually physically and emotionally healthier than those who are isolated,’ she says. ‘But when a woman moves half way round the world she is hit triply hard. Firstly, she needs the support of friends more than ever because of all the changes she encounters. Secondly, she’s now far away from those who know her best. And thirdly, she faces language and cultural barriers to making new friends.’

When you’re trying to create work opportunities as well as a social life, nothing can kick start your career better than networking. In a new location, you can start networking straight away, if not before you arrive, by making contact with people to whom you have been referred by your contacts in the previous location. You can also use a search engine to discover other expats through their blogs and online activities. Statistics say that 65 to 75 percent of work opportunities are found through networking rather than through things like recruitment agencies, advertised vacancies and Internet postings.

We like people who are like us. We buy from people we like. How are we ever going to let people find out whether they are like us or they like us if we don’t get out there and network? And no, networking is not about handing out business cards, it is about being nice to people, sharing and making friends. Stephanie Ward of Firefly Coaching defines networking as ‘building relationships over time’. Read on to find out more.

The importance of networking

Did you know advertised vacancies are often filled by networkers, before or while the advertisement appears? Indeed, 50 to 80 percent of the positions that interest you will be filled at the ‘hidden job market’ level?

These jobs are snatched up by people who are not necessarily better qualified than you, but who are better connected. People get these jobs by networking or by being part of an already existing network. Networking gives you the best chance of knowing the right person in the right place at the right time. Studies of networking have demonstrated this ‘right person’ is rarely a close friend – or even a friend at all. She’s more likely to be the acquaintance of a friend, or the friend of an acquaintance. So your chances of getting your desired position increase in proportion to the number of people you know and their networks.

Over the years we have come across countless examples of people who found work through the hidden job market. One of my (Jo’s) friends, newly arrived in Dubai, found herself a job as a secretary for an airline company by chatting to someone at a drinks party. I started working for an employment agency writing CVs, because my husband had told someone he’d met in a bar that his wife had arrived in town and was looking for work. I once ran a writing workshop for a large ferry company because I met someone who worked there at a wine tasting event. And I found a publisher because I got chatting to the man sitting next to me on a ten-minute train ride. He was that publisher.

My commissions at The Independent came about because one of the members of our local writing circle did some sub-editing for them. At least two career consultants hired by Ricklin-Echikson Associates (REA) were recruited as the result of an email I received from them when I was editor at Woman Abroad magazine asking if I could recommend anyone suitable.

A four stage event

A work opportunity has four stages. The first is when there is nothing available. The second is when it is recognised the amount of work is more than can be managed with the current resources. The third stage is when it’s agreed new skills or more resources are required and informal enquiries are made to find these. The fourth stage is when the opportunity is made public and advertised in the usual ways. Most opportunities will be filled at stage two or three as it is more efficient for the employer. A formal recruitment process costs an employer time and money. The more people you know and who are aware of what you can do and are looking for, the more likely you are that when the opportunity comes up, you will know about it before it is advertised.

Building Your Network

Networking builds a web of contacts and associations. It is from your network you will most often find your next work opportunity. Learning how to network is essential to creating a portable career.

Like a spider, you cannot build your whole web instantly. It begins with the people you know - relatives, close friends, casual acquaintances and people you haven’t seen for some time. Don’t forget to include people you see regularly and those you must make a special effort to reach.

Your network is made up of all these people:

• Family
• Friends
• Neighbours (past and present)
• Business colleagues and co-workers (past and present)
• Social acquaintances (golf, tennis and other sports/recreation players, social club members, members of the community met through social or civic activities)
• Professional acquaintances (people with whom you have interacted in present or past jobs)
• Former classmates, teachers and college alumni
• Mentors
• Relatives
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