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The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Thanksgiving is the idea of sharing.  It's the time of year when everyone gets together to share food, drink, shelter, and stories.  It's the time when we look back on the past year and think of what we're thankful for, what opportunities we've had, and how we can better ourselves in preparation for what's right around the corner: the New Year.

This past year has been very crazy for me.  I met a wonderful girl, I graduated college, and I watched my sister welcome a wonderful baby boy into this world.  These monumental changes in my life have all led to new opportunities, new experiences, and new challenges and I'm extremely grateful that everything has worked out for myself and my family.

As most of you know, over the past few months I've been struggling, like many others, with the economy and what its done to the current job market.  I'm thankful for the opportunity I've been given by Upper End Properties in letting me come in, essentially create my own job title, and allow me to build my business from the ground up.  I'm excited about the opportunities this position will bring me over the next few months and the potential it has to grow well into the new year.

I'm also thankful for my friends.  I'm thankful for the fact that no matter how many times I don't pick up my cell, how many times I decide not to go out, and how many times I blow them off for whatever indie film is playing at Plaza Frontenac, they'll always be there to call me the next weekend.  It's rare to find such persistence in people, and I appreciate it more than anyone would know.

Most importantly I'm thankful for everyone who's stuck with me and this blog.  I'm still not positive where I'm going to go with it, what I'm going to do with it, or whether or not people REALLY enjoy reading it, but still, looking up analytics and seeing 190 page views on average, per post, is something I'm extremely grateful for.  I may not be the best writer, I may not always interest you, but you keep coming back, and I can't stress to you enough how much I appreciate it.

As I've said before, Thanksgiving, to me, is all about sharing.  I encourage you to write a blog, a note, a status on Facebook, or a 140 character tweet on Twitter.  In a time where a "thank you" is only a click away, there's no excuse not to tell someone how you feel.  Happy Thanksgiving to all, and thanks for a wonderful year.

 
 
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I’ve never been that great at networking.  That’s probably not exactly what you wanted to hear after you’ve stumbled across the headline promising you expert advice on how to master the art, but hey, at least I’m being honest.  Expert or not, this blog is about my insights, ideas, and opinions on networking and the role it plays in achieving success in today’s economy.  

I think that a lot of us are in the same boat right now.  The way I like to describe my current situation is by saying, “I’m working hard at not working”.  What do I mean by this?  Well, my philosophy on unemployment stands the same, “Searching for a job is, in and of itself, a full time job.”  In fact, I think I’m working harder now, even though I’m not working, than I have in the past few months of my life.  Confused yet?  Yea, me too.  

I came across an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch that claims networking is now the number one most effective way to land a job.  In a study done by Chicago based outplacement company Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, a study of over 100 human resource professionals provided the not-so-shocking result that networking and the use of social media platforms such as Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter are now the most useful and effective ways to get your foot in the door.  

To me this wasn’t so surprising.  In fact, this was just statistical evidence of what I had already imagined to be true.  So where’s the problem?  Well, let’s just say that it takes a lot of work to successfully network, especially in a what I call a “not-so-stimulating society.”  

In college I really started to understand the importance of networking.  A fellow student, fraternity brother, and a mentor taught me early on in my sophomore year about the importance of getting involved, finding a niche, and the importance of branding yourself as a leader.  With this knowledge, I took it upon myself to get involved, hold leadership positions, and establish connections with the many influential people around me.   

What I took away most from this college experience is the idea of a simple leap of faith and the importance of taking a chance. When it comes to networking, the number one complaint I have is the unwillingness for people to lend a helping hand.  But then again, the contradiction to this predicament remains; why should it be someone else’s responsibility to find me a job?   

See the idea behind networking is this: to develop contacts or exchange information with others in an informal network, as to further a career (Websters).  It’s not forcing someone to get you a job or asking for a personal favor; but it is exchanging information in hopes that you will be given an opportunity based on your credentials.  So what ways have I been exchanging information?  I’ve outlined them below:  

Word-of-Mouth Anyone in the world of marketing knows the importance of word-of-mouth.  It is the number one factor in consumer decision-making, and it is also the number one influencer the hiring process.  All of my friends now know that I am searching for a job.  They know what I am interested in and where I see myself being successful and they keep their eyes open for any opportunities that my come up.   

Case in point:  After mentioning being unhappy at my job and telling one of my buddies I was looking into advertising, I awoke the next day to an email outlining the creative agencies that he had been working with at Anhauser Busch.   

Social Networks Here’s where the majority of the work comes into play.  Branding yourself effectively through social networks is one of the hardest tricks in the book.  Even successful Fortune 500 companies are struggling to create a unified brand image across all social media platforms.  The websites that I find to be most effective are Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Monster, but in order to truly benefit from each of the respective sites, it is important to create a universal identity with a consistent message about the type of person you are the type of person you want others to see you as. 

Case in point:  After starting this blog back in June, I used Facebook and Twitter to promote what I was writing throughout my networks.  I went from having three visitors daily to around 150+ within one day.  This was possible because the message was sent to a network of over 800 people, a powerful marketing tool at each and every person’s disposal. The one thing to remember is that any message, larger or small, can be seen by many. 

Blogs The concept of the blog has really kicked into high gear lately.  I myself have about 30 blogs that I have dedicated myself to reading, and I am always looking out for new ones that interest me.  A blog is an easy way to market yourself, and an automatic advantage if you’re looking for a job that requires writing skills or web 2.0 skills.  It shows you’re in-tune with today’s methods of communication and acts as an intermediate resume of sorts, allowing individuals to see who you are, what you interested in, and what you want to do with you’re life.  I strongly stand by this blog, regardless of if anyone reads it, and I feel a strong sense of accomplishment with each and every post.   

Truthfully, managing myself right now is a full-time job.  Finding job positions, writing cover letters, making phone calls, and staying organized in a never-ending process.  Networking allows you to know that even when you’re not working, there is work being done.  There is someone talking about your resume, there is someone looking out for you with a job, there is someone reading your blog, or there is someone recommending your name.  There aren’t a ton of people out there willing to lend a helping hand, but when you work hard at establishing your contacts, work hard at being pleasantly persistent (but not a pest), and work hard at showing your utmost appreciation, things are bound to turn up.   

In closing, I hope this has given you some incentive to go out there and find yourself.  It may not be easy, but if you’re not working, like me, it may be a good time to start networking and finding new ways to be successful in this not-so-stimulating economy. Please feel free to share your stories, successes, tips, tricks, and insights, or opinions on this topic.  I’m always looking for a helping hand.