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Old Contacts Are The Best

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by James Scott, CFO at Binary Tree – ETP member since 2009 and contributing writer for Lamplighter Newsletter.
When looking for new opportunities sometimes our oldest contacts are the best. In 1997, I was in transition after a working for ten years at a good company that was sold to a UK company. They permitted me to sit at my desk, while they paid my severance. At that time, they considered it as the outplacement support. Going to work every day, I felt like a dead man walking. I was there, but it was over. It was early Internet days, I had a prodigy email account (remember prodigy?). It was pre-LinkedIn, and most of friends didnt even have email addresses. I called the usual contacts I had worked with, our company accounting firm, and our lawyer. 
I looked at the three inch thick pile of business cards I had accumulated — how to start with those? My previous employer was in bankruptcy, and both of the companies I had worked for before had been taken over and absorbed years before. Out of the blue, I got a phone call from Bruce.Bruce was a fraternity brother whom, except for a short conversation at the reunion at Rutgers the year before, I had not seen or talked to for almost 20 years. (Wow, what‘s my age again?) Bruce was in transition, he was looking for a job. I have always liked Bruce, he was a year ahead of me at college at the time he seemed so much older, and he was an officer of the fraternity. Always positive, direct, funny ― I looked up to Bruce. He went to law school, but never finished. I never thought he would ask me for my help. Of course, I said I would help. So I asked him to send me his resume. He seemed disappointed, probably thought I was blowing him off, so I invited him to lunch. Misery loves company I thought, if nothing else at least we could catch up on old times.He was overjoyed. We went to lunch. I mostly just listened to him for an hour, and in truth didnt have a clue on how to help him. Lunch over, while he was insisting on picking up the check I told him about my own status in transition. He was quick to answer that he knew of a job for me. And he did. Just like that.

Bruce is a natural networker, outgoing, center of attention kind of guy. He had not only called me, he had gotten the contact list from our fraternity and called every brother on record who had graduated from Rutgers from 1965 – 1990. (He was able to get the list because he used to be a volunteer advisor to the Chapter in 1980‘s). Bruce called everybody on the list. What brother isn‘t going to answer the call from another brother?  One of the guys he called, who was 10+ years older than both of us had just invested in a startup company and they needed a CFO.

To make a long story short, guess who had a very warm introduction and got the job? And what did I do in return, I reached out to everyone I knew for Bruce. No, I didn‘t get Bruce a job, but I did get him some interviews. And when he ended up in sales and had stuff to sell, guess who found a way to buy some of his company‘s products? And after I left that company and started my own consultancy (branded one of my first clients was the guy who Bruce introduced me to. The one who had hired me as CFO also became one of my first clients when I started out on my own. Life is easier now, and networking is too. Both of those guys are among the 400+ contacts I keep a little closer to now with LinkedIn. This is all networking, like connecting the dots. They are there to connect, if you do the work.

I bet you also know your own Bruce, and he knows the guy who may hire you. I was lucky that time, Bruce happened to be reaching out for my help. I was not smart enough then to reach out for help like he did. Now I know better. You can be Bruce, with your own network because you know more people than you think you know. Or you can find the Bruce you already know. Most people really do want to help, find them and let them. They will be the same people looking for you some day.

About the Author

James Scott is a Financial Growth Optimizer CFO with twenty years of executive level leadership supporting fast growing technology companies. Founder and principal of Multi-industry PRO experienced in financial services, manufacturing, IT (software and services), Internet, electronics, media, telecom, industrial services, marketing and publishing. Focus on reaching objectives by providing deal making and strategic leadership to enable others to concentrate on their role in delivering on the corporate vision. Provider of organizational and financial framework to enable managers, employees, vendors and customers to contribute optimally to company success as measured by customer satisfaction and bottom line results. Hands- on team player who gets everyone into the game; leader by example. Email:- theCFO[AT]hotmail[DOT]com

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