It is easy to feel all alone in the world when looking for a job. Just this week I was speaking with a friend (John) about his work with a large consulting firm vs. working in a large company as part of the organic workforce. He has over 20 years working for one of the largest consulting and contracting firms and left to work for a large company about five years ago. As a consultant, I felt that even though I felt very close to my clients, I was still a “guest club member” and I never really got to join the club. There were times that I felt disconnected from my own company and disconnected from the client at the same time. It was like walking a line in the space between organizations. When I started to consider other work options, I wanted to be part of something and feel that I was in and part of something bigger. I mentioned this to John and he laughed and said, “You get over that after a year.” He went on to say, “At the end of the day, we are all just organizational mercenaries.”
The reality is that as companies get bigger at some point people become their employee ID. This started to get me thinking about “The Wolfpack.” What I hadn’t considered before this conversation is that even though I wasn’t part of my client’s organization and I felt disconnected from my company, I always had a close team of trusted friends. This team always extended outward as well. My Lockheed Martin crew, My Boozers, JFCOM, Pentagon Team, Exis Net, I could go back as far as I can remember at work and I always had a pack. In fact, almost everyone from my Lockheed crew was hired as a result of JD from Exis Net. I could literally go back 15+ years and know that the close connections built back then have resulted in jobs and connectivity for many people today. Most of the old Lockheed gang is still together and the people that left are still connected in some way.
We aren’t mercenaries and we shouldn’t feel this way. We are people and our connections in and out of our organizations are real connections. Now today you are looking for work and again it is easy to feel alone so what do you do?
Find your wolfpack… When I started to consider other work options a few years ago one of the first things I did was reach out to my “network” and I was pretty surprised at first when I heard some chirps. Over the years, I have grown a strong network and I have helped many people connect with others and find work. At the time, I figured if I just send a note out that I was looking for work that someone would help me. That wasn’t true. I know that people cared about me, but my expectations exceeded their ability. The reality is that people don’t have a lot of time for themselves no less helping others look for work. I started to feel depressed and question myself.
My friend David was considering other work for himself around the same time as I was looking. I sent him a note and mentioned that I was looking for work. He started to naturally look and consider work for me as he was thinking of himself. I was working to help him as well. Once we started working together, it wasn’t long before conversations with prospective employers were taking place. In fact, he inspired me to write 99 Resumes Sat on a Wall.
Is there a difference between tapping into your network and working with your wolfpack?
Yes, there is a difference. Your network could be a mixture of weak and strong interlinking connections. People you have met in passing and people that you have spent a lot of time with. Chances are if you sent a blanket message to your connections it would come across as weird. I did that once, when I read my email I immediately trashed it.
The wolfpack is a small group of trusted agents that you have a close proximity to. They know you and you know them. While you may not have common jobs or roles, you have the hunt in common. They have the ability to advocate for you and you have the ability to advocate for them.
Is there a difference between a wolfpack and a networking group?
Networking groups and job groups are good and there is opportunity in these groups, but they are different than a wolfpack. Building trusted relationships over time takes time. Working with people in larger groups can build trusted relationships and opportunity, but the fidelity and amount of trust is limited to the time / interaction. A wolfpack is small and there is more time to build trust and exchange information.
There is no magic formula to building a wolfpack
In my experience, I have always had great people around me that I could trust. The problem for me in the past was that I didn’t ask for help. I was embarrassed or I thought I could handle the situation myself. I was also overconfident in the speed and ability of my network. When I didn’t get the response I expected, I was surprised. Now I know that working with 3-4 people with common interests of exploring new opportunities is literally a force multiplier. The way to know if someone will work alongside you, is for you to ask. Beyond asking, it is your responsibility to prove you are part of the pack by showing up when called, learning about the needs of others aside from yourself and advocating for them.
When you are part of the pack, it isn’t only about you.. it is about us!