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Networking for Life

  • Author: Kathy Barany

    “Really?” you say. “Networking for life? You’ve got to be kidding me!”  “That’s ridiculous.” 

    Nope, I’m not kidding. The two biggest mistakes job seekers make when networking are (1) staying out of touch, and (2) getting in touch only when they need something. 

    Imagine Joe Job Seeker went to college with Carol Company. Joe and Carol haven’t been in touch for years. Joe picks up the phone one day and calls Carol inquiring as to whether Carol knows of any job openings. That is the “you’ve got to be kidding me” part.  Or worse yet, asks for Carol to use her influence to introduce Joe’s brother to one of Carol’ contacts (yes, I had that happen recently). 

    Carol loves to help people.  But, seriously, what do you think Joe’s chances are of having Carol help him? 

    Networking isn’t about finding a job, or asking someone you know for a favor.   It’s about making lasting connections (look up the meaning of the word “connection”, you will find “network” amongst the definitions).   

    Networking is about talking to people (who know people), and then you talk to those people (who know people), and so it grows. 

    Networking will not get you a job, or a favor, but networking can produce a lead or open a door, which can lead you to an interview, or a conversation, which can lead you to finding a job, or making that connection you need to make. Networking is all about relationship-building. It is a lifelong, career-long process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. 

    And once you build that network, there are ineffective and effective ways to converse with network contacts.  Let’s script out how Joe talked to Carol: 

    Joe: Hey, it’s Joe. How have you been? 

    Carol: Joe! Haven’t heard from you in ages. Talks about what she’s been up to and asks Joe about himself. 

    Joe: Talks about his life, then says: I just got downsized, so I’m looking for a job. I was wondering if you knew of any openings? 

    The chances of Carol saying yes, she knows of an opening are close to 0%, so they hang up with Carol saying, “I’ll keep my eyes open for you.” And that’s the last Carol hears from Joe. 

    It could have gone like this: 

    Joe: Hey, it’s Joe. How have you been? 

    Carol: Joe! Haven’t heard from you in ages. Talks about what she’s been up to and asks Joe about himself. 

    Joe: Talks about his life, then says: The challenge I’m facing right now is that my company was downsizing, and I was one of the ones laid off. I haven’t had to conduct a job search in years. What I would love to hear from you is your thoughts on what might make my job search successful. 

    Carol might say any number of things in response to that query; it’s intrinsic in people to want to help.   So Joe’s chances of coming away with some useful information are close to 100%.  A phenomenal increase in the odds, don’t you think? 

    With the “do you know of any openings” conversation, although Carol might have wanted to help Joe, she didn’t know of any openings, so Joe batted zero. Yet I would bet that 99.9% of people queried would have some advice on how to search for a job—a home run. 

    Remember the old adage “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know”? In the art of good networking, it’s more like, “It’s not what you know or who you know; it’s who knows you.” 

    So now that Carol knows Joe is looking for work, of course she would think of him if she did hear of an opening. That comes naturally, and you don’t have to ask. 

    Next month we will continue this series on Networking and offer some additional networking tips and techniques.

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