A couple of years ago I attended a networking event run by a group affiliated with LinkedIn.
By the time I arrived at the venue – a waterfront CBD location near the Sydney Opera House – it was packed with people. Several tight circles had already formed, heads nodding earnestly to each other.
I moved to the bar and ordered a soft drink. Plates of finger food cruised by on platters borne by stylishly clad waiters; prawns, chicken satays, mini-lamb chops, Thai fish cakes, buffalo cheese quiches, frittata wedges for the vegans. I helped myself to a passing prawn, pondering how best to inveigle my way into one of the human laagers.
As I considered the content of my opening line, a voice rose above the rest to brief us on the format for the evening. Everyone was to spend two minutes chatting to another person, sharing information about each other’s business, their professional backgrounds and business goals. The aim of this exchange was to expand business contacts which would – hopefully – lead to referrals and new business. I was about to be introduced to ‘speed networking’.
While I did not strike it lucky on the night – I don’t know that anyone can realistically expect things to happen that quickly – the event did bring home to me the power of making connections. And because the hidden job market means that about 50% of jobs are not advertised, making the right connections becomes even more important when looking for work.
So how was I going to network my way into the administrative fortress of UCT? Who did I know who could “link me in”?
In the course of conversation with my sister-in-law – a UCT alumna like me – I casually mentioned my dilemma. She suggested that I contact someone called Owen Kinahan.
This name had a vague ring from the past. I Googled it and found that Owen’s credentials included history teacher, UCT alumni officer and UCT Council member, Cape Town City councillor, public relations consultant and conservationist.
I wasted no time in contacting him. And he wasted none in replying.