Work the room for a new gig or a raise. According to researchers in the U.K., the old saying stands: It’s who you know, not what you know, that’ll make you rich.
Researchers studied 33,776 lobbyists on Capitol Hill who previously worked in a congressman’s office and tracked the changes in their salaries after their congressmen left government. The results: The lobbyists’ earnings fell by an average of 24 percent.
See, former staffers make good lobbyists because they have strong personal connections with congressmen, Mirko Draca, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, tells MensHealth.com. But once a lobbyist loses that tie, he has less influence, and his clients are more likely to leave him—slashing his income. And while Draca’s research hasn’t explored other industries, personal connections are key to succeeding in most jobs.
The good news: You can forge new connections more easily than you think. Here’s how.
1. Milk the Holidays
Most job hunters stop networking during the holidays, so you’ll have a leg up if you show up with business cards at a party, Ford R. Myers, author of Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring, tells MensHealth.com. Plus, most companies hire based on personal recommendations, so making a good impression in a non-work setting can land you the advocate you need to get hired, according to Wes Erwin, senior assistant director of employer relations at Indiana University. Try it at your New Year’s Eve party: Chat up your buddy’s college roommate or your wife’s best friend’s boyfriend. They might already be working at your dream company—and will be happy to make a referral if you impress them and ask for an informational interview.
2. Align Yourself with the Pros
In the age of LinkedIn and online portfolios, guys are guilty of ignoring the basics of building a brand on the ground, Myers says. The fix: Join professional associations that relate to your business, and work your way on to at least one committee (where you actually attend meetings—get this—in person!). Not only will you meet tons of professionals—usually higher-ups—in your field, but you’ll be working alongside them in a leadership role instead of under them in a job, Myers says. Instead of seeing you as a new guy asking for a promotion or a fresh-out-of school potential hire, you’ll be respected as a peer with lots of initiative (and experience). Not sure where to start? Try a site like Weddles.com that lists thousands of associations by category.
3. Get Savvy with Social Media
Instead of solely retweeting on Twitter or only linking to your own work on Facebook, reach out to the leaders in your field with questions and comments. If you blog, blog about industry trends—not yourself. An active and informed social media presence linked to some deeper thinking on your part increases your visibility and shows depth, Dan Kilgore, a principal at California-based HR-training firm Rivera Advisors, tells MensHealth.com. It will help you stand out as a researchable, visible, and knowledgeable candidate.
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