11/27/2010 11:56 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Don't Know How to Network? Just Be Nice

We've all read reports about unemployment and the slow pace of job growth. You can't avoid the dismal news even if you tried. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have unemployment stats for recent college grads, but there's anecdotal evidence (just ask your friends and neighbors) aplenty that this demographic is not having an easy time finding jobs.  

When my twins graduated from college in May, as many young adults are prone to do nowadays they ricocheted back home and began searching for full-time work. Little did we know they'd each land a dream job due to networking. 

Now before I was retained to co-write the book "Fast Track Networking: Turning Conversations into Contacts," I thought networking was all about attending business events in which strangers introduce themselves to one another, pass out business cards, and then wait for the phone to ring. But I learned otherwise from the book's main author, Lucy Rosen, founder of the national networking group, Women on the Fast Track.  

While it does require face-to-face schmoozing, Rosen stipulates that at its core, networking is about giving -- sharing leads, contacts, resources selflessly and for the sheer good of others. (You know, when you give, you receive.) Redefined as sharing information, networking works. 

For adults holding steady jobs, there's no better time than now to reach out to those who don't and lend a hand; conversely, young adults need to reach out and vocalize their career needs to anyone and everyone willing to listen. Consider my daughters. One of them was temporarily employed at a department store as a sales associate this summer. One day a customer walked in and while chatting, my daughter mentioned she was seeking a career-path position in the fashion field. This person, it turns out, is a VP at a nationally renowned fashion house, and offered to submit my daughter's resume to human resources. Three interviews later, my girl landed a fabulous job with potential for growth. My other daughter, who had been babysitting all summer to make do until she found full-time employment, was attending a basketball game in Manhattan one day when she launched into a friendly conversation with another bystander. As it turns out, the man's wife was seeking someone for an entry level position at her high-end travel/concierge agency. He too offered to submit my daughter's resume on her behalf, and they hired her. 

At the time, my kids didn't realize they were networking. Nor probably did the kind strangers who helped them. But that's exactly what went down; the beautiful thing about this type of networking is that it's organic -- it's simply about being kind, giving and following through on promises. And my young adults learned an incredibly valuable lesson -- by directly experiencing how sharing can be helpful to others, I'm confident as they move ahead in their careers that they will pay it forward to someone else in need. 

My kids found employment, but, you may be asking yourselves, what exactly was the payback for the people who helped them? Well, aside from good will (universal good karma), the man at the basketball game found a dedicated employee for his wife's company. I have no doubt as to my daughter's productive contributions there. And perhaps one day her fashion-forward twin will move up the ranks and become an invaluable asset for the VP that helped her secure the job. Regardless of the outcome, her dedication to her field of choice makes her a fantastic company employee, overall.

Now that my kids are settled job-wise, they're networking to find roommates and apartments in Manhattan. I'm betting the generosity of others will facilitate this process, too.