The importance of professional contacts

importance of professional contacts

One of the biggest problems with being unemployed is that you're also out of the professional loop and lose touch with your professional contacts. You don't get exposure to the normal range of news, gossip, and information which is basic currency in any profession. Some of this information is transitory, but a lot of changes can happen in an industry in a very short time, so it means you're probably missing useful information.

The other big issues with professional contacts aren't quite as obvious. While professional networks are well known, their real function is to some extent as a de facto referral system. Your contacts are also friends, as well as colleagues, and they can put you in front of employers as personal references, and in many cases professional references.

This process is usually considered normal until you're unemployed, whereupon it becomes vital as a potential way out of the abyss. Professional networks often take over the role as employment agencies, because a lot of work can be referred through them, and simply never gets advertised. That's not unusual, or even unfair, it's the normal role of the pro networks.

It's also a lot more efficient than leaving work on hold until the ritual of advertisement and hiring has been gone through over a period of months. Networking is sometimes considered an unfair approach to employment, but in many cases it's the only realistic way of getting things done in a hurry.

Professional networks are also a mutual support mechanism for the industry. Job hunting becomes a lot easier, and much better targeted, through a dedicated industry group than through the despecialized agencies. Many recruiters specialize for this reason, and build up good businesses in their preferred industries because they know what the industry wants.

In some industries, professional contacts on the personal level may be your only way of getting and assessing current information about jobs. Reading a job ad and getting the direct background from a friend aren't the same thing. Your friend will also add some quality to the information, and you can be better informed than by reading a full page ad.

The social role of professional networks is often ignored or underrated. Many professionals, being busy, and in many cases skeptical of networking as a method, tend to discount professional associations and other social forms of professional contacts. The result is usually that their colleagues lose track of them, and although the relationships may be good, the social gap is created, and the contacts tend to be relatively formal.

Even friends in the profession, confronted with someone they haven't seen or heard from for years, will be naturally a bit reserved. Losing track of colleagues isn't a good move, because you're in the same profession, and you do have common interests.

You can be selective, even distinctly picky, about professional contacts. You can stick to close friends, and people directly involved in your field. Just don't be a stranger.