Hiring a new employee or contract worker is kind of like getting married: you decide to join with them based on things you like. For your lovebug, you look for similar values, personality, kindness, beauty, etc. For your office buddy you look for skills, experience, and knowledge that complement what’s already there. And, just like with marriage, your new employee comes with all these people in their network (except that they don’t tell you how to put on Thanksgiving dinner or what color to change your curtains to).
As valuable as these connections can be, however, they’re often neglected. I doubt any employer goes into an interview thinkg, “I wonder how I can use this person’s network to help my business.” I know this because I’ve been to a lot of interviews and no one has ever asked me how many Facebook friends I have or how big my Twitter following is.
But here’s the deal – Everyone has a network. Whether it’s the bright-eyed college grad or the 40-year-old mom that’s coming back to work for the first time in 12 years, they’ve all got people that you’ve never met or heard of, people that could help your business in ways you might never have considered.
I am a relatively recent graduate of Northern Arizona University (NAU). When our company decided to go to the College of Business career fair to recruit a couple of interns, I was invited to help prepare for the fair. Having been to a few of these career fairs as a student, and having seen how unoriginal and uninspiring the businesses that showed up were, I was determined to make our table unique.
After tossing it around for a week or so, we came up with the idea to put on a Marketing Meme Contest for any students that wanted to participate. We made up the rules and decided on a few fun prizes for the winners. But it definitely wasn’t anything to get excited about.
Almost as an afterthought, I went onto my LinkedIn profile and shared the landing page on two of my alumni groups, letting them know what we were up to and asking if anyone wanted to donate more giveaways for the winners.
The next day I got a reply from Sedona Red Rock Adventures. The owner is an NAU alumnus and he generously donated three Sedona adventure gift certificates, each valued at $375.
I was dumbfounded. He didn’t want anything more than to encourage education and creativity, especially for students at his alma mater, and to have a discussion about marketing for his company.
How to Replicate It
Obviously, there was no formula or tested, proven process in the example above. It was a completely spontaneous, unexpected effort. But that’s where the beauty in it lies: it was totally authentic. We’re pushing farther and farther away from big advertising budgets and flashy commercials and billboards that “appeal to the masses.” Instead, we’re focusing on reaching people one-on-one, on an individual basis. To do that in a natural, authentic way in our employees’ networks, we need to do two things:
- Allow creativity and critical thinking.
When left to my own devices, I was able to come up with the idea for the meme contest and the wild hair to post it on LinkedIn. Had my supervisor told me how to prepare for the career fair, the outcome would have been much different.
- Encourage (but don’t force) sharing with friends and connections while at work.
At Sigma, we are always encouraged to share our latest bit of digital mastery on our personal social media platforms. Without being demanding, it gets me thinking, “Who do I know that would enjoy seeing/reading/checking this out?” Suddenly, my group of friends, past colleagues, and other acquaintances are now a group of people who could potentially get value out of what I’m offering. You never know what possibilities might pop up.
Following these two steps will open the space that allows for genuine communication which could ultimately bring more business, a new referral partner, or any other number of great opportunities. The trick is not to go in with the expectation that you will improve your business, but with the possibility to improve it.