Most, job seekers know intuitively that talking to people is a powerful means of landing their right-fit job. Statistics strongly back up getting a job through talking to someone you know or should get to know. There’s where the fear creeps in. Fear of being that pest asking for something; fear of mingling at an event or worse, delivering an elevator speech or pitch. Working the room; picking up the phone to call someone you don’t know or haven’t seen in a long time. It’s scary. It’s also one of the most important things you need to do in your job search, unless you’re seeking a job as a recluse.
Reframe your perspective.
A misconception that can make your search more difficult is to believe that these conversations are about you. They’re not. And they’re not about you asking for a job. You want to ask questions to collect information, perspectives, recommendations, suggestions, referrals, etc. Focus on the person you’re talking to. Questions like, “How did you get started in this work?” or “What do you wish you knew then about your work that you know now?” can arm you with valuable information for other networking and interviewing.
You are aiming for targeted research rather than self-promotion. In first-level conversations, the talk will inevitably shift back to you. When it does, talk very briefly about your background, what you do well, and what you want. Keep it as short as possible—just a few carefully thought-out sentences. Then turn attention back to the other person. If the word networking is scary, reframe it. Whether you’re talking to someone at a networking event, having coffee, or talking on the phone, you’re having a mutually beneficial conversation.
Where do I start?
If talking to people you should get to know is scary, think “reconnecting with friends and people you know” as a good place to start. Whether you’re extroverted or introverted, this should work. You just engage in meaningful, casual and somewhat-structured conversations to build long-term connections. These are usually mellow conversations with people you know and trust; it’s just a twist in the direction of the conversation.
This approach allows you to practice comfortably, without the thought of a looming mistake to be a major uh-oh. You’re not starting that phone call with, “You don’t know me.” You’re not jumping the gun by approaching high-level contacts too early in the process (you’re still nervous about direction and strategy). Why dive in with these potentially important decision-makers before you’re ready?
Who are these reconnection people?
These are the folks with whom you are confident and comfortable. They’re easy for you to approach and talk to. They are often what coaching guru, Susan Whitcomb calls the “bone marrow people.” They support you. They often have suggestions or ideas for you. Most will want to help you and if they understand the nature of the conversation. They will often remind you of your strengths. Some of them will have valuable contacts for you; some won’t. But never rule anyone out. These people are reachable. They are folks who will usually ask how you are, and how your family is doing.
Why approach these people?
Why should you have conversations with these people? They are support people, information people, and people who will keep you afloat when the inevitable dead ends, no’s or other roadblocks surface. Don’t feel you know them inside and out. Given a certain scenario presented by you, they may well surprise you with new dimensions you hadn’t seen before. And because they are your bone-marrow people, they are inclined to let you know when they hear of an opportunity.
So, pick up the phone and start a conversation. If these are your first-level contacts, it won’t matter if your introduction is a bit stilted: “This may sound strange, John,” or “Bear with me, Marge.” It will be okay. Start with baby steps, allowing at least a month to talk to these first-level bone-marrow people. Ask them about people they know. You’ve probably never had this kind of conservation with them before. That’s okay. There is a method to the madness.
And most importantly, don’t hang up or if meeting personally go home, without asking the all-important question:
“Who else do you know that I should talk to?”
In my next post, I’ll share more about the whys and hows of having these structured first-level conversations to catapult your flourishing network!