The Silver Platter of Work Experience: The Power of Word of Mouth

The phrase “to be offered on a silver platter” means to have something offered to you, often in a way that is very easy to acquire. Much of my work experience was offered on a silver platter. Employers and clients came to me requesting my time. I now have a rather eclectic range of work experience. So how did I manage this?

Use Your Network’s Network

Firstly, the silver platter is not so much a silver platter as it is about working my network. People offered me work because they knew I was looking for work or they knew someone who knew me and recommended me. For example, I have had work offers from researchers who somehow knew students of mine, researchers who knew colleagues, teaching staff who knew others I had taught for, and students who knew other students of mine. This highlights that your network is wider than you think; it includes the networks of each person in your own network.

 Be Everywhere And Talk To Everyone

So how did I get people talking about you? Be everywhere and talk to everyone. Conferences, departmental meetings, university symposia, and committees of professional societies are all access points potential networks. I used the time before/after events to talk to these people. People were much more likely to approach me in the future if they had at least briefly met me before.

Small talk

How did I talk to a complete stranger without looking desperate or awkward? Small talk. I was recommended not to talk to people in the “I want to use you” sense, but in the “I want more friends in academia” sense. But, if someone started talking work I showed great interest in their work and shared their passion. I spoke to everyone. Researchers, teachers, students, industry, and people outside all of it. Everyone has their own network and knowing them could be the key to meeting others.

Do Things And Do Them Well For Those In Your Network

It was not enough for me to just have a strong network. I had to do things, and do them well, for those in my network. For example, someone said “I really struggle with X” and I have gone “Oh, I can do that! Would you like my help?”. Much of this doesn’t end up on my CV, but it builds reputation encourages open dialogue between me and that person. Being generous with time and demonstrating a broad skillset meant people in my network came back repeatedly with work offers and told others in their network about what I had done.

In short, I gained access to the silver platter of work experience by networking, helping others, and fostering friendship rather than exclusively professional relations. This has been a major success for me as, throughout my Honours, Masters, and PhD this has ensured a steady in-flow of casual jobs to keep me afloat and to allow me to develop new skills.

~ Chris Kilby

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