Networking is rightfully touted as the magic bullet in a job search. Overwhelmingly, when my clients land positions they covet, they first learned of a role through someone they know – often a weak tie rather than someone from a long-term relationship – instead of an online job listing.
Those of us who are introverts (and often extroverts, too) tend to be hesitant about reaching out to people we know and we’re often paralyzed at the idea of expanding our networks to include people we want to connect with but don’t want to impose upon. The good news is there are some useful techniques available to you that are best explained as what to avoid, including:
Steer around trite phrases such as “I’d like to pick your brain.”
Simply ask for help and let your contacts know that you’re in a job search while making it clear that you’re simply asking for their advice.
Don’t ask “what can I do for you in exchange for your help?”
You’re building a relationship, if you introduce the idea that you want a transactional connection with them – one where each of you is mentally keeping a spreadsheet about who has given more – that degrades the genuine connection you’re developing. Definitely, seek ways to support them and offer them intel, access to your connections, and the benefit of your experience and knowledge, but do it organically without the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality.
Don’t confine your engagement to just one meeting.
Here’s where you DO need a spreadsheet so that you can track the dates and substance of your conversations with specific people. If you’re serious about launching a job search, you’ll begin to lose track of who you talked to when and what you discussed, so take notes. Also, mark your calendar to loop back to people with updates and individualized emails so that you stay on their radar. Remember that brevity goes a long way in these follow-up touch points.
Avoid pinning your hopes on one or two people and/or companies.
Desperation is a natural emotion in a job search. Much is at stake, and, of course, it matters that you land a job quickly. When panic bleeds into these conversations, people instinctively back away out of fear that they won’t be able to deliver what you need. To keep those emotions at bay, it’s important to have many avenues and opportunities so that one doesn’t topple under the weight of expectations that are too strong. Job opportunities fall away for many reasons that have nothing to do with your fit and qualifications, so guard against that agony by pursuing multiple opportunities and connections at the same time.
Trust your gut as you navigate networking conversations, and remember that people want to be helpful. If you structure your conversations in ways that make it easy for people to offer their advice and support, you’ll soon be welcoming offers for positions that you’re targeting.