August 2, 2011
Are you leveraging your connections?
As I've discussed in previous columns, finding a job in Seattle depends on who you know, who knows you, and what they think of you.
Too many times, job seekers new to the game think it's all about the numbers and try to meet as many people as possible. While I advocate expanding your reach and number of connections, I'd like to stress the importance of quality versus quantity when it comes to professional relationships.
People here seldom refer folks they rarely know, so expecting introductions from those you just met is premature. However, relationships you've built over the years could help you expand your connections and referrals to target organizations. The key word is "target."
In my column "Your step-by-step guide to getting your next job," I advocated building your marketing plan to help you focus your efforts on companies that would be a great fit for you. Once your plan and target companies are in place, it's time to see whom in your network you can leverage for introductions to these companies.
Make a list. Sometimes the links between people are clear; sometimes they aren't. In those cases, make a list of the 10 contacts you believe are most likely to know people who could make those introductions.
Prioritize your contacts. Before you reach out to those folks, try prioritizing them. Make a list of contacts with whom you've had close relationships with, such as those who have invited you to their homes, and those you see regularly. People generally don't want to hear from someone they barely know or haven't talked to in a while who is asking for help finding a job.
Meet with them. Once you've identified your top contacts, reach out to them by making a genuine flattery statement. Let them know that you're looking to make an important career decision and that their professional opinion would go a long way in helping to ensure you make the right decision, and set up meetings with them.
Keep an open mind. While meeting with your top contacts, express vulnerability and gratitude, and show them your marketing plan. Ask for their advice regarding your target companies and see whether they think you're on the right track. Remain open-minded and be receptive to all ideas, whether or not you agree with them. This allows your contacts to get more creative and feel safe guiding you toward what they think is best for you.
This process has produced a number of benefits for my clients. In some cases, for example, their contacts came up with companies that my clients hadn't thought about. In others, their contacts offered some names of people they thought my clients should meet at the companies they were targeting.
Since your contacts are the ones providing the information, this makes asking them for introductions much easier. And because you did your homework and have a clear plan, they know how to help you.
What if you don't have the right contacts, or if your contacts don't know anyone at your target companies? That's the topic of my next column.
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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