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Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

iStock_000012681402XSmallJust 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.

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Communication can make or break a relationship at home or at work.  Let’s view communication from the perspective of the sender and receiver.  How often as a sender of a message have you had to say: “That isn’t what I meant.”  Sometimes the message we try to send does not clearly express what we are trying to say. Examining what psychologists refer to as “I messages” versus “you messages” can help improve your communication skills.

I first encountered the phrase “I message” in Thomas Gordon’s book Parent Effectiveness Training (1970).  While he initially proposed the concept as a communication tool for parents, it quickly became apparent that the use of “I messages” could be generalized to many settings.

An example should prove useful. A wife who is worried about her unemployed husband’s wellbeing tries to check on him by stating: “You look defeated.”  Her husband, the receiver of the message, immediately begins to defend himself.  He responds angrily because he misinterprets her message.  He feels she thinks that he has given up and is not working hard enough to get a job.  He responds sarcastically, “I’m doing just great.  I’m looking as hard as I can.” Remember, the wife is worried about her husband’s wellbeing, not how hard he is working at getting a job. Yet the message she sends arouses defensiveness. From the perspective of communication theory, her mistake was to start her message with “you.” Another approach would be to start with an “I message.”  “I’m worried because looking for a job has to be frustrating and stressful.  I wish there was something I could do to help.”  Response by husband: “It is stressful, but your offer to help is really appreciated.”

“You statements” block effective communication because they often generate defensiveness, resistance or anger in the receiver.  Let’s look at some other examples:

 “You’ll get another job if you only keep trying.”  Receiver gets defensive. “You think I’m not looking as hard as I should.

 “You’ll feel better tomorrow.” Receiver gets resistant.  “No I won’t. Nothing will have changed. “

The above attempts to offer advice or support are well intentioned, but they serve to only block effective communication.

Recently, at a workshop I conduct for people who are unemployed, a participant pointed out that his wife was a “worrier” and frequently found it necessary to check on him while he worked on his computer.  He admitted that he often snapped, “ You keep interrupting me.  You’re driving me crazy.”  When he returned for the second day of the workshop, he pointed out that he had focused on using “I statements” with his wife.  He acknowledged that it took some effort not to respond impulsively.

But now, instead of responding defensively, he tried statements like, “I’m trying hard to focus on searching job boards right now.  I’ll check in with you when I take a break in about a half-hour. “ His response defused her anxiety without hurting her feelings or getting upset himself.

While it takes some practice, starting statements with “I” can eliminate unintended emotional baggage from your attempts to communicate clearly.

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