Men's hands hold a globe - small world, big connections

Small world, big connections: unlocking the secrets of your network

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Are you someone who seems to find mutual connections with almost everyone you meet? Do you travel across the world only to find the fellow tourist on a boat trip off the coast of Western Australia is the colleague of the only person you know in New Zealand? Or the Head of HR you’ve found an interim role for is the sister-in-law of your brother’s best friend at school 30 years ago? Or another interim married a first cousin of your childhood friend from home?

These kind of things frequently happen to me, to the extent that my family and colleagues always joke that everyone I meet is somehow connected to Skibbereen (a small town of about 2000 people in West Cork)… and it’s often true!

Claire O’Donovan, Partner within the Interim Human Resources Practice at Eton Bridge Partners, discusses the importance of recognising the extent of your existing relationships and how to make the most of your wider network when searching for your next assignment here:


The power of building stronger connections with the people you know

This summer, I worked at Eton Bridge Partners’ unofficial “Irish office” – the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen where I combine a week’s remote working with a couple of weeks holidays every year. I set off with the family and dog, drive the 15 hours from Bedfordshire to Cork, this year pouring rain all the way until we enter magical West Cork, where the clouds part, the sun peeks through, and the multi-coloured houses exude a warm welcome to returning locals and visitors alike. There’s a good reason it’s the location of a second home for many well-known high-profile names like Jeremy Irons, David Putnam, Graham Norton, and Zadie Smith, amongst others.

A few days later I sail out to an uninhabited island off the coast of Baltimore, where my 16 year old son meets a friend, who’s brought her friend along – it turns out her dad is a contact of mine – Head of People & Culture at a global pharma business! I find myself saying as I often do, “What a small world!”

This brought me to think about connections, and how us humans have an innate desire to make connections with those we meet. It’s not just an Irish trait, although we are a curious type, and wherever you are in the world, when two Irish meet, you’ll notice they always seek to find a mutual connection. It makes the world a smaller place.

So how can this help our interim candidates looking for their next assignment? In a challenging and competitive market, interims need to explore all angles, and reach out to multiple contacts to maximise their chances of securing their next role. The partnership and relationship with your trusted Search Partner is of utmost importance, and utilising your network to enhance that will reap the benefits. Increasing the reach of your exposure will ensure you are at the forefront of minds when a requirement for an interim Chief People Officer (CPO) arises, for example.

So, in order to do this, consider being mindful of these points:

Be aware of and appreciate the power of your network
Most people have a much greater network than they realise and don’t utilise it to its full advantage. Think not only of your previous colleagues, but also your social network, your partner’s and friends’ network, your former school and university contacts. Explore those from your alma mater on LinkedIn, reach out to them asking for recommendations of others to connect with. Every new person you reach out to could be one connection closer to a new role.

Be specific
When approaching new contacts, be clear about the support you’re looking for. Ensure you come prepared with a genuine desire to exchange knowledge and networks for mutual benefit, and who knows….you may just find you know someone in common.

Think of what you can share with others
Don’t just come looking for help, but consider it a two-way process. You have experience, skills, expertise and contacts that you can share with others; what goes around comes around!

Keep involved and current
Attending informative networking events with reputable firms will really enhance your currency, ensure you’re up to date on the topics on discussion, and help in making valuable new connections.

Stay positive, develop your resilience – and remember, everything happens for a reason
Often the event which seems unfortunate at the time can transpire to deliver unforeseen positive outcomes with the benefit of hindsight. Not securing the last assignment has meant you’re now available and ready to take on what will become your most rewarding role yet. Missing out on a short term interim role has meant you’ve secured a longer one with more challenging and rewarding deliverables at stake.

Have patience and confidence in your ability
If you’re doing all the right things, it will pay off. You only need one role, you know you have the relevant experience, and have done everything to put yourself in the best possible position – now trust that it will come about. It can of course take time, and waiting for your next role in a tough market can be a worrying time. Consider using this break period to further develop your skills, make the most of this time, as you will inevitably wish you had, once you have secured your next full-on assignment!


Eton Bridge Partners host a number of events to support our network, including “New to Interim” gatherings, run by Liz Skakel. The feedback from our interims is that the practical information on how to set up as an interim is invaluable, as is the advice on a shift in mindset. They hugely value the opportunity to make connections with other candidates seeking to enter the interim market for the first time after a career as a permanent employee. The value of making human connections, sharing an interesting conversation with a new contact, or meeting someone who knows someone you know, can be uplifting, powerful and long lasting.

Supporting and expanding your network will pay dividends, even if that is solely through the shared value and experience of looking for your next assignment alongside others. If you can do this, and meet some new friends along the way, this will result in happier days, happier assignment seekers who make happier and more productive interims – a win/win for all concerned!

In a quote often ascribed to WB Yeats, “there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet.” So, if you haven’t made friends with Eton Bridge Partners yet, please do pick up the phone, reach out to us, and we would be delighted to make some new friends!

Get in touch with Claire for a confidential chat.