The accidental networker

Thinking about the past three years since I left the Chronicle, I realized that almost every job I’ve had came about through a personal connection.

This wasn’t nepotism or favoritism. I didn’t get the jobs because of connections. But I got the interview or the initial contact because of a connection.

One of my main freelance clients was referred by an old small-business source from when I was at the Chron. Another came from a former colleague, who was also now freelancing but didn’t have time to take on any more projects. My Technion assignment last fall came through someone I knew from Hashomer Hatzair during high school. And so on… Over three years, I landed exactly one freelance assignment from a “cold” response to a Craig’s List ad — and even there, it turned out I had a couple of acquaintances in common with the client.

Career counselors always talk about the power of networking. Well, here was firsthand evidence of it — and I hadn’t even been aware that I was networking.

I hadn’t been going to Chamber of Commerce breakfasts and handing out business cards. I hadn’t been mustering troops on LinkedIn to help me find assignments. I’d barely been looking for work, in fact — too busy trying to rewrite a novel and figure out the next stage of my life.

What I take away from this is that if you live long enough, and you’re involved in your community, and you basically do good work and try to help people out, you create a network. You may not think of it as a network. Or you might call it by some other term — goodwill, good karma, social capital.

But it is a clear advantage to midlife, a solid hammer in our career tool kit. We may not be fluent in the latest social media jargon, we may not be willing to write Web content for $10 an article, we may no longer be able to flirt our way into workplaces run by powerful, chauvinistic men.

But we have reservoirs of experience and wisdom. We have community. We have networks — even if we don’t know that we do.

I wonder what things will be like for my daughter’s generation when they reach our age. I graduated from high school with maybe a few dozen friends from school and from Hashomer.

She’ll graduate with about the same number of flesh-and-blood friends… and then her 800-plus Facebook “friends.”

Who may mushroom to a network of 4,000 by the time she is fifty.


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