September 28, 2010
Who are the top three 'super connectors' in your industry?
Recently, I gave an assignment to my career boot camp students: They will have one week to identify the top three "super connectors" -- the most influential contacts -- in their industry. Once these contacts are identified, they will have an additional week to make contact with these people and set up a meeting.
If you have targeted particular companies on your one-page marketing plan, you might be wondering who can connect you with decision-makers inside these organizations to help you get informational or actual interviews. Starting with your own network is great, but what if your network isn't connected to anyone at these companies, or worse, your network isn't highly regarded?
Introductions are most productive when they come from highly respected and influential individuals. If Tom (an influential and respected professional) introduces you to Mary, Mary will most likely sit down with you just to maintain a positive relationship with Tom. Additionally, since the introduction is from Tom, your credibility and prestige will be elevated in Mary's eyes.
Having contacts like Tom is great for your career, but what's even greater is knowing several Toms that are super connected. Super connectors are able to introduce you to a vast number of contacts simply because they've done the hard work over the years to amass a large Rolodex. Knowing a handful of these folks is all you'll need to shorten your transition time and become employed quickly.
Where do you get the names of these individuals? There is no easy answer, but there is a process you can follow to narrow down your search.
First, start off with the highest contact in your network and ask, "Who are the most influential and connected folks in your industry?" Ask others in this industry the same question, and after a short while, you'll see certain names come up over and over again.
In human resources, for example, you'll hear the names Carol Olsby, chair of the HR Roundtable, and Suzanne Elshult, chair of HRNow. Both HR Roundtable and HRNow consist of a closed network of senior executive leaders who share information and network. If you're in the HR field, getting to know Carol and Suzanne can dramatically influence your career.
In the world of early startup, ready-for-venture funding, you'll hear the name Janis Machala. Janis is known for connecting tech entrepreneurs with venture capitalists and angel investors. In the venture capital world, you'll also hear the name Jon Staenberg. These are examples to get you started with your research.
Now that you have your list of names outlined, what's the best strategy for connecting with them? Ask people who know them closely what they're looking for, or the type of projects they're working on, so you can become a resource to them. By being a resource instead of a needy job seeker, you'll have the opportunity to connect and make a great first impression. If you can genuinely make a difference and contribute to their agenda, you might win their gratitude, and they may reciprocate by connecting you with their network.
Connecting with super connectors and influential professionals should become an ongoing habit you establish today. Carefully maintain and nurture these connections so you'll never find yourself in the job-seeking mode for long.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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