Aunty decided to take a ‘gap year’ at eighteen years old.  I was sick of school and, though I didn’t know what ‘gap year’ meant, it sounded like lying around at home, doing nothing and chilling out.  I figured I had already contributed enough to society after all those years of schooling.  My dad was not under the same impression.  He had an over-the-fence chat with our neighbour, the Director of our local Department of Social Welfare and jacked me up a job.  Without any clerical experience or an interview, I spent the next year getting sworn at while working the local Unemployment Counter. Congratulations to me.  It is who you know and not what you know that is important in life.

I concluded that that I was not going to set the world on fire by giving out unemployment benefits for the next forty something years and told my dad so.  My dad went back into our garden to find our neighbour again.  A few nice words about me were exchanged with the neighbour’s cousin, who happened to be the local Director of Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.  Still no gap year and with no experience, I spent the next two years studying and inspecting meat at the local meat works.

When the New Zealand Meat Industry imploded, ‘gap year’ again beckoned, but my dad stepped in again.  This time, he chatted to one of his customers whose daughter was the manager of the local meat works’ laboratory.  Without any experience, I was employed as a trainee technician and, after a few years, ended up running the laboratory.  I have my dad’s interventions to thank for my unplanned and unusual career and am still waiting for that gap year.

I found applying for a job the normal way was much harder than having my daddy get me jobs.  It meant scouring newspapers, worrying every Saturday whether the positions advertised would be suitable, drafting and sending in appropriate letters and resumes, attending endless interviews and getting knock backs.  That that does not kill you, makes you stronger!  It seemed so much easier to find opportunities through friends and contacts rather than through usual channels.

My partner is a likeable chap.  He has built up contacts over the past forty-five years.  He can phone various tradesmen up and all will happily do jobs for him or supply him materials. The old saying ‘you are like me, so I like you’ holds here, highlighting that it is definitely worth making the effort to be pleasant resulting in a favourable impression.  You will still need skills, personality and qualifications but doors will open quicker for you if you look after your contacts.  Once you have made those contacts, nurture them and they can last a lifetime.

I realise now how many amazing contacts I have made over the years and how much they have helped me.   The great thing is now I am in a position to help others.  Recently, I was contracting to a great company that needed a new Receptionist and my partner’s daughter needed a job.  The manager did not know the daughter but, based on our relationship, she was given one interview and got the position.

Investopedia suggests networking is “the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest, usually in an informal social setting”. You couldn’t get any more informal than my dad and the Director chatting over their gardening shears.

Networking is about establishing and maintaining relationships but this will not come naturally to all people.   If you love talking to strangers and making small talk, you will adore networking. But if you are more reserved and have to work at chatting, knowing you probably will never see the person again, networking may seem exhausting.  But it will be worth the effort.

When growing your network, treat everyone with respect.  Never treat anyone as unimportant and disregard them.  Refuse to judge as you don’t know who they might know now, who they are related to or who they may know in the future.  Make time and effort to grow a great network and do your part to support fellow humans.  The more you reach out and maintain connections, without expecting anything in return, the more successful you will be.  Today’s social media seems more about how many friends or likes you have, rather than supporting and helping someone else.  When you want to make contact, think about what you can do for the other person and not what only is in it for you.  When you need help from your well-maintained network, don’t be too proud to ask.  People like to help.

Make time and effort to network.