Don't put your network on the spot (here's a much better way)


So anyways. I've been thinking a lot about networking lately. To the point where this completely overused, but very true quote keeps rattling around over and over and over in my brain. That quote (so you can enjoy it in your brain as well)?

You think networking is hard? How hard is NOT working?

OK. I can rest now that I handed that one over to you.

Now let's talk for a second about networking.

Specifically, let's talk about one of the common blunders job seekers make when they set out to network with people that fall on the outside of their closest circles. That blunder goes something like this (assume Bill is an operational leader with a local corporation):

Hi Bill, We haven't spoken in a while. I hope you're doing well. It's been a pretty tough year on my end. The company I was at declared bankruptcy and our entire team was laid off last September without notice. I was hoping you might have an operations job in mind for me at your company or know someone who does. Here's my resume. Please let me know if you know of anything, OK? Thanks, Jerry

Why is this less than ideal? 

Because it puts Bill on the spot.

It may make him uncomfortable and, if he has nothing in mind for you at that moment? He has to come back with a "no." And most of the time, your peeps don't want to come back to you with a "no."

A much, much better approach goes a little something like this:

Hi Bill, It's been a while since we chatted. I hope you're doing well (Hey, how'd that marathon go? I remember you were training for the Chicago Marathon last we talked). I'm sending you a quick note with a request for some information. You are truly the guru on all things Operations, so you were the first person to come to mind. The company I was most recently with folded and we all lost our jobs last September (yes, huge bummer).


As you know, I've been working as an operations manager for the past handful of years, and I love it. My question for you is this - Do you belong to any specific professional associations that you find particularly beneficial as an operations leader? I'd really like to leverage these groups as part of my search, and I'd love your recommendation on the best places to start.  Thanks Bill! I look forward to your input. Jerry

Notice how Jerry didn't attach the resume with that second note, nor did he ask Bill for a specific job or job lead. YES, Jerry may well do that as this conversation unfolds, but in version two? He does not come right out of the gates asking Bill to help him find a job.

People want to help you. They love being called upon as experts, and will typically go out of their way to give advice and input.

But no one loves feeling cornered.

So build a little rapport first. Ask for some easy-to-provide information or advice, compliment them on something they've done professionally, do a little front-end "catching up" and test the waters BEFORE you ask them for a j-o-b.

Your connections are vital to your job search. You absolutely must approach them with a strategy.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Darren Hester)