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Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, or, Some Really Important Stuff To Know In Today’s Economy

OK, folks, so we are back in the kitchen with Aunt Toby (sing that to the tune of “Strummin’ on the Old Banjo”), which of course is my very favorite place in the world because all sorts of important and useful stuff goes on there. And today’s assignment (you knew that I’d have one of those for you, didn’t you?) is an exercise in what is termed in the biz as “contact management.”

You will need: Paper, pencil, and however you keep your contacts going: Roladex, PDA, address book, file cards, the old scraps of paper on the refrigerator with the grease stains on them, etc.

Divide the paper into three columns: People I Know, People the Spouse/SO/Partner Knows, and Everyone Else. You can organize the people alphabetically, by where they work, or what they do or any other way you so choose. But get them ALL down there under some column along with a note for “what they do in life.” It doesn’t matter what exactly they do in life; just that you put it down and if you do not know, then you need to find out.

You can be as blatant or as discrete as you want to be – ask directly, check around, whatever you want, but you need to know a little bit more about this person than merely, “Joe Dokes, phone number.” And here is the reason why: One of these days, something is going to happen to you or the Spousal Unit/SO/Partner/Person Who Shares Your Bathroom Cabinet or your kids or your dog/cat/pet unit and you will want to be able to put your hands on a bunch of people who you can call. Because there is always someone who a) knows more about the issue than you do or b) knows SOMEONE ELSE who knows more about the issue than you do.

“My kid needs braces – do you know a good orthodontist who won’t spout Christian theology while he’s got my son under the wires?” “I need a plumber who can work with a house that was built in 1865 – know anyone?” Or, and in this economy, this is a biggie: “It looks as if my unit might be downsizing, so I need to start making contacts with people who need skills in XYZ.”

I’m not going to get into the “you should have been doing this all along” stuff. Or, “you should have been taking courses at your local college to upgrade your computer skills in CAD or C++” or anything like that. No matter how this reads, I am NOT your mother. But I can tell you that picking up the phone, talking to people, telling them that you need to find someone you can talk to (especially if you are not asking THEM for a job) can yield you big results. Trust me, ask Jane Hamsher. I’m sure she’s got a Roladex the size of a side-by-side fridge.

Once upon a time, as some of you might know, I was an accountant. Not a very good one, mind you, but that is what I made my living at until the DH and I got pregnant for the second time and I realized that if I continued doing the same thing for the next 20 years, I was going to slit my throat and make a very large mess in the bathroom for someone else to clean up. And what I really wanted to do was get into marketing (don’t ask me why I chose marketing).

What right did I have to decide this? Well, given that I’d had a couple of marketing classes in school, that was it. But I did not have any experience with marketing; I did not have a portfolio of anything. In a word, zip.

But I did know the DH (a lucky thing since we were pregnant for the second time) and he knew someone in the publications office where he works and gave me her phone number. I called her and told her I was looking for information about getting into marketing and asked if I could get her coffee and talk to her about it. We met. We talked. She gave me the phone list from the local Advertising and Marketing Society with instructions for me to call the first guy on the list, tell him she’d told me to call and make an appointment. And she also told me to ask him at the end of the talk, “Do you know anyone else on this list who you think would be willing to just talk to me?” She said to work each one the same way – at the end of the conversation, ask that question. If the person said, “No, can’t think of anyone,” then just go back to the list and start again, “Hi, this is …and so and so said for me to call you.”

I went through three people before I got my first job offer. Yes, I Got A Job Offer. Was it the perfect job? No and looking back, if they’d had their heads screwed on straight and had not been in a bind because their marketing director had just left to start her own business, I probably would not have taken it. But they did hire me. And in that job I learned about printing, contracting for design, trade shows, trade show booths, pre-show marketing for trade shows…and a lot of other stuff. And yes, I sent thank you notes to everyone I’d spoken to who had helped me along the way.

This technique works. It’s been written about numerous times in magazines and books (What Color is Your Parachute is numero uno on this).

The thing to remember TODAY, though is this: Shit Happens. One of these days, your kid will need an internship, or your SO is going to tell you s/he wants to change careers, or God help us, your boss is going to call your department in and tell you that the jobs are being moved in 6 months to Duluth, MN. As the book says in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, DON’T PANIC.

The place to start is: Who Do You Know? And then…Who Do THEY Know? You never know who someone will know..or who someone’s kid is in a play group with. Or where someone you met went to camp and oh, by the way, do you know that so and so was at camp with him? Or who someone once worked with who now works for the company you really really want to work with now.

OK? So, take out the paper and start writing and pick…up…the…phone.

(originally published at Oxdown Gazette)

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One Comment

  1. […] This is more for people who still have their jobs. For those people who have unfortunately lost theirs, I’m going to point you to the post called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” Kevin Bacon […]

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