recommend other influential employees and officers at the company. He would solicit specific information about backgrounds, perception, likes, and dislikes—useful information that would help him begin the process again. “By the third time they’d seen me, they’d remember who I was.” When Morrison arrived at Cox, a major media and automotive services company, in 2002, he used the same strategies that worked for him at Prudential. He made a list of “key influencers” he might not see regularly in his day-to-day activities, which included senior executives and those on whom an executive might rely. “Depending on the individual, I have them on a monthly lunch schedule or a quarterly lunch schedule,” he says. Morrison also maintains contacts outside the firm. Compiling a list of CIOs at other Atlanta companies, he has created an informal group that meets several times a year for lunch to exchange experiences.
Myth #4: Only people within your professional or social group can help you.
If you subscribe to this belief, you may already have missed opportunities coming from unexpected places. Those looking for a job or promotion often focus only on hiring managers and executives above their level. But experts say employees should network sideways and down, as well as up. “You just never know where information is going to come from,” notes Larry Hollins of the Hollins Group, an employment recruitment company with offices in Chicago, Atlanta, and New York. In addition, you never know where a former colleague may eventually end up in his or her career.
Lance Coachman, CEO of EXI Inc., an Atlanta-
based executive recruitment firm, says many people make the mistake of discounting those whom they consider below their professional level. “Don’t ever blow off the secretaries,” he advises. “They are the greatest source of information of any company.” They also handle the bulk of inter- and intraoffice communications. “Some know the whole historical hierarchy of upper management.” When Coachman started his firm, his best sources of information were a secretary and a shoeshine man in a corporate building in Atlanta, with whom he would chat while he was having his shoes shined. In their conversations, Coachman learned when companies were acquiring new divisions and closing others. “They assumed he didn’t understand what they were talking about,” Coachman says of the executives, “and I didn’t assume he didn’t.”
Randy Latimer, a marketing director with UPS in Atlanta, networks down as well as up. In addition to lunches with colleagues, Latimer, 40, typically has three or four lunch engagements a week with people outside the company. He sees networking as a constant exchange and finds that networking with junior employees provides him with information he might not otherwise have. “[They] are the ones that are actually doing the work on projects I’m close to,” Latimer says. “They can give me added insight about what is going on and at the same time I can give them value in terms of how they should proceed with their career.”
For Dr. Heather Neblett Alexander, a pediatrician in