Just about everyone acknowledges that making contacts through networking is one of, if not the best ways to land a new position. In fact, some estimates suggest that about 80% of all jobs are not advertised, and the openings are communicated through word of mouth. So it stands to reason that the best way to learn about these opportunities is through the contacts you make. You can go to dozens of job events, hand out countless business cards, join the hot online groups, and connect with the universe, but the best way to make networking pay off is to turn those contacts into relationships.
As a psychologist I am acutely aware of the importance of building relationships with clients. By relationship I mean a state where people trust one another because of openness, honesty, and a sincere demonstration of willingness to help. An article in The Wall Street Journal by Dennis Nishi (March 24, 2013) reminded me of the critical role that the development of relationships can play when seeking a job. Nishi’s article emphasizes going beyond brief contacts by developing ways to get in front of the right people. Nishi relates the experience of a job seeker who, instead of asking for help, offers to help, thereby building strong relationships with individuals who might in turn be helpful to her.
A colleague of mine does a lot of networking to build his business and employs the same strategy. He meets a lot of really nice, successful, energetic people, but often there is little they have in common. However, when he comes across someone whose interests are aligned (professionally or socially) he starts to build a relationship by asking, “What can I do to help you? “ Sometimes there’s payback, sometimes there’s not, but on balance my colleague believes that giving is a good way to start getting.
Sometimes being more open about your situation with casual acquaintances can also be helpful. I had a client who found himself engaged in conversation with another father while both were watching their daughters’ soccer match. At first, my client focused on a conversation about the game and raising daughters. At an appropriate time he mentioned that he had been laid off from his job as a salesman for a building supply company. It turned out that the other dad owned a roofing and siding company and was looking for a salesman. He invited my client to come in for an interview and hired him.
Certainly there’s no harm in asking everyone you meet if they know of any jobs. It’s just more likely that people will give it extra thought and go out of their way to help if you have some kind of relationship established. It doesn’t have to be a life-long commitment, just a mutual demonstration of interest and caring. You’ll find It helps to build a connection as opposed to just a conversation about your need to find a job.