There are many ways in which one can build a career: persistence and discipline are one of those. Woody Allen said that just to put efforts in whatever you are doing ensures 80% of the success that you will have in your longterm professional life, but because everybody estimates their intensity of putting efforts in their studies or jobs mostly in an exaggerated way, this really couldn’t be such a decisive factor. Although the one personal trait that people always recommend to have a beautiful career is Vitamin C: C as in Connections. Where in India the personal connections biases the employers to provide you with a job, in Germany, the professional connections (or sometimes personal too) are the MVP, the ones which help you to get a job and to even get a promotion in your line of work.
Vitamin C ensures better-paid jobs!
There is one fact that you will 100% realize when you move from India to Germany, even though Germany is one of the few countries in all of the developed world which puts an extremely high focus on your merit, skills and competence when you are looking for a job:
”Connections only hurt those, who don’t have any.”
In India, your parents have connections everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you need to get something done in a bank, in university, in police, in court, in public hospitals, in schools, in a local market, your parents might know somebody, who might know somebody who would be able to help you out if you are in any kind of trouble. The exact same applies for Germany too, but unlike the contacts being more personal in India, are mostly purely professional in Germany. Let’s go to some numbers and figures now:
- Some years ago, a study of the EU commission showed that around 33% of all of the European employees between the age of 16 and 29 find their jobs through personal contacts. A similar result was shown by an IAO Fraunhofer Institute’s study where Vitamin C was ranked at place 1 as a career accelerator: Around 70 percent of all of the leading positions in Germany are filled via contacts.
- The scientist Catherine Kirchmeyer from the Wayne State University found out that a big professional and personal network of contacts from different areas can give your career the necessary boost to accelerate yourself into a better position.
- A study from the Institute of Job market and Career Research (IAB) showed that around 40% of all the vacancies in Germany are assigned through personal contacts. That’s why networking is by far the most successful strategy for the job search!
- The scientist Richard Benton from the North Carolina State University also found out that the so-called ‘Informal relationships’ play a very important role during the assignment of jobs. Informal recruiting plays an even bigger role sometimes when you just get to know about a job through a personal contact which you wouldn’t have found out about otherwise. Even in the study, it was demonstrated again that around 40% of the open vacancies are filled via personal contacts! According to the study, whoever finds a job through a personal contact, earns way over 80,000€ per year on an average (with experience of around 3 years or more)
The list can keep on growing and the numbers can keep on varying but one thing remains unchanged: the really good jobs are referred within the networks among each other and through personal contacts. The information, where right now good career opportunities are available, can only be distributed in a strong network of people who are highly motivated and want to bring value to their contacts whenever they can.
Different Types of People in your Network:
To lead a successful life, money isn’t the only thing that will keep you in that state, rather it’s a combination of three different types of capital: Financial Capital, Human Capital, and Social Capital. If you are an avid follower, till now you must have realized already how important it is to have personal and professional contacts in Germany, but it is also very important to know what roles do the people in your network play when it comes to building your Social capital. I have listed down a few roles so that you can realize what kind of people you are connected to in your circle and what kind of people you have to connect to:
- The Inactives: These people are part of a group or a network or rather pretend to be a part of the network but they don’t bring any value into the network and withhold the information that might be useful for the community.
- The Coordinator: This person starts a connection between two people in the same network who might not be connected before. He belongs to the same network and acts like an internal mediator.
- The Consultant: This person acts as an external advisor where you starts a conversation between two different people from different networks, where he is part of one of the groups.
- The Gatekeeper: This person controls the entrance to the network for people who aren’t part of the group yet. Other than that he also takes the information from outside and provides it to the people inside the community.
- The Representative: This person is the point of contact of one network to the other. He/She represents the group/network. He/she can be an extremely resourceful capital of your network because of access to a huge base of contacts but is unaware of the minor details going on in the network.
- The Linker: This person creates contact between two people who are part of two different networks where he isn’t the part of any of those two groups.
- The Initiators: These people are active and highly motivated people in your social network, which share things with you, which could be of use, take initiatives when called to action and bring large value to the group
It is extremely important to realize what kind of people you are surrounded with right now and what kind of people you would like to be surrounded within an ideal situation. You might think of yourself as an initiator but maybe you don’t take any steps when called to action, or you could think yourself as an inactive person but do bring value to people whenever there is something you can help them with. No matter at what position in the above-given spectrum of roles you lie in, it is imperative that you take hard self-reflection of the things and decide what another kind of people from the same network or a different network would you like to be connected to and why. There is nothing more useless than a person who just sits and watches things happen to him and others, instead of initiating an action or responding to the call of action.
How to Improve your Social Network?
After understanding what kind of people you are connected to and what their influence on your life is right now and will be in the future, the next step comes to analyze and see what kind of steps you can take to improve both the quality and the quantity of your network. When it comes to building connections and your own social networks, it is very important to remember that
”Being a part of a higher quality of network is always better than a larger quantity”
To make you understand this quote, imagine that you had been hustling in your field of interest, trying to talk to hundreds of different people on LinkedIn, Slack, Discord, Telegram, Facebook, Xing, Instagram, and YouTube. Having contact with one person who might be a CEO of some company in which you might want to work in would be way more resourceful to you than having contact with thousands of employees in the tier 3 hierarchy of the company. Through him you can get to know hundreds of different people who are also in a very influential position, he can help you rise up the hierarchies faster and can mentor you when you have important problems (although, you should always be careful of how many questions are too many questions for him). So, always rather go for a higher quality of network than a larger quantity because when you build your network, it is extremely important that you keep taking care of that network, that you invest time and your nerves inside it, because without it you can’t build a strong relationship to anybody, let alone some CEO who has too less time and too many connections who might not be willing to put inside the same kind of efforts in staying connected to him, as you would. Having said that, here are the following points that you should remember while networking with people, building your own network or staying active in a community of which you already are a part of:
- Determine your own position: See where you stand in a network. Are you the initiator, the representative, the consultant, the linker, the gatekeeper or the inactive.
- Solve the web: When you know where you stand in the network, the second step is to see what kind of contacts do you have in the network? How influential are these contacts? Will they be willing to help you with your problems? Are there other influential people that you aren’t connected to yet?
- Make stronger connections: To anybody that you want to stay connected to or at first want to connect to, you should make sure that you are building a strong relationship with them. Always try to have a 51-49 relationship with your contacts where you are trying to contribute 51% of the value in your connection and the other person is just able to contribute 49%. Even if you make water the seedling of your relationships with the people, who can’t contribute anything to your network yet, don’t underestimate it. Who knows sometime in the future, they might know somebody influential who could be of some use to you!
- Look outside the box: Keep building your network one step at a time. Make contacts in different departments, different branches in the same company and use the company events to get to know other colleagues and guests coming to the event. You can even just initiate the contact with ‘Hi! My name is ABC and I am doing XYZ in the company’ and right from there the conversation will start.
- Foster the relationships: I am calling it a relationship because if you really want to have a higher quality of the network, this is what it becomes, a bunch of strong relationships connected to each other. When you are networking, it isn’t at all about continuously trying to make more contacts but to also take care of the relationships that you already have. When you are in contact with somebody regularly (that doesn’t mean at all that you have to spend hours every single day. If both of you are ambitious and motivated none of you will have so much time).
This is why pick a network, become an initiator, start connecting at a more personal level and always be mindful of the people you are connecting to, follow the 51-49 relationship and on the side, work hard to build your human and financial capital to ensure that when you are done with your studies, you have a strong network of highly motivated and intelligent people who can help you get the perfect internship, job or training that you always wanted.