Networking is not a new concept in the construction industry where fast turnover is a fact of life. Projects are temporary and most contractors hire on a temporary basis from project to project. Two requirements for staying constantly and profitably employed are 1. To be competent at your craft. 2. To be on the preferred list. Being competent is the most important and needs little explanation. Being on the preferred list means having friends, supervisors and recruiters that know you and have no problem in recommending you for the project. Recruiters prefer former employees with a proven record or new employees that come recommended by reputable contacts.

It is not only what you know, but who you know (or better-who knows you) that can make you successful in the construction trades. Building a good reputation with employers and fellow workers is a vital function for both merit shop and union tradesmen whether they travel or work local. The union locals are a structured network with written rules while the merit shop networks are somewhat loose and of a smaller social nature.

A functional network requires some common feature that fosters bonding. Ethnicity, trade specialty, locality and company loyalty are frequent commonalities. Some Black and Latino groups network so well they are never unemployed except by choice. Successful groups have a "can do" reputation that makes it easy for them to gain employment and recommend each other as they move in numbers and share expenses.

The big buzz on the Internet is in social and career networking but it is not a big item for construction craft workers in the public arena. The main reason is that it requires the sharing of contacts and information that most workers reserve for friends on a personal level. Most of the e-social venues have internal groups or clubs for various factions of the industry but thus far participation is minimal. There are several Internet bulletin boards based on the concept of sharing information but most of the content consist of recruitment ads, many of which are re-posted from job search sites. The ads for good opportunities become obsolete almost as soon as they are posted.

Building a profile on a popular networking site is essential, but it will do little good to have a thousand online friends that know nothing of your skills and work ethics. The internet can be a useful communication and sharing tool but networking for jobs still has to start on a personal level at the jobsite.