Unlock the Hidden Job Market:
Six Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times Are Tough
This sample chapter appears in the book Unlock the Hidden Job Market: Six Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times are Tough. After developing the initial concept for this book, I invited Duncan Mathison, a former executive with Drake Beam Morin, who was launching his own private practice, to be my coauthor. We combined his content expertise with my ability to reach out to my contacts in the publishing world to quickly secure a contract. This book was published a year later. The chapter is written in Duncan’s voice. In addition to the practical, immediately actionable advice that we offer, I especially enjoyed writing the success vignettes that appear at the end of every chapter.
How to Network Without Sounding
Phony, Lame, or Desperate
Ah. Networking. The very thought makes you feel like a teenager all over again, doesn’t it? But not in a good way, probably. Back then, it seemed as though the world was divided into two groups: The people who could magnetize friends without even trying (they were the ones with the fun weekends planned), and those who couldn’t no matter how hard they tried (they were the ones who didn’t). Now, when it comes to the talent of building and keeping large networks, the world is still divided into two groups: Those who seem to know just everyone, and those who don’t. On the surface, networking seems to come easily to the successful crowd. But the truth is that, when it comes to using networking specifically to look for a job, hardly anyone does it very well. They confuse networking with making friends. And the most sensitive of job searchers despise networking for the way it makes them feel:
You feel phony because you equate networking with social superficiality. Over your entire life, you’ve taken pride in the fact that you have a select circle of true, authentic friends. You’ve watched other people “work the room,” slick backslappers, ultra-extroverted folks who never seem to focus on the person in front of them because they’re busy scanning the room to see who else is there. Now you’re in the position of having to build up your circle of contacts at hyper-speed, and you want to do this in a way that’s consistent with your own values and nature. Heaven help you if you’re an introvert, because networking the way you’ve seen it done so far will be agony. How many times can you pretend to be interested in the family pictures on people’s desks? Speaking of inauthentic, what about that opening that so many career counselors advise you to start with? “I’m not looking for a job, I just want to get some advice from you.” No one buys that line anymore…if they ever did. You certainly never did. So why punish yourself by following bad advice? Especially when it causes you to hate yourself later.
If you hate networking, chances are you don’t do it well. Conversations stall into awkward silences. You suddenly can’t think of a single thing to say that will pull the discussion out of the mud. You just know the person you’re talking to is beginning to run mental scripts to get out of this one-on-one with you, starting with, “Oh my gosh! Look at the time!” And frankly, you can’t blame them. You’d get out of this conversation with you, too, if it didn’t defy the laws of nature.
Let’s face it. You need a job. Fast. If you didn’t, would you even be doing this networking thing? Probably not. You’d be too busy working. So, to be truly authentic in your networking style, you’d have only one question for people: “Do you know of any openings? No? Okay. Well. Uhm. Thanks.” And then you move on to the next person, with the same question.
You’re too classy to actually handle networking that way. But you know desperation is still exuding from your pores like pheromones. And as much as you try to broadcast a positive, upbeat, in-control demeanor, everyone knows you’re on the job hunt. And time’s a-wastin’.
Maybe you’re also feeling like you deserve to be on the receiving end of some divine retribution. You think back to when you were completely busy with a demanding job and some poor guy called you out of the blue to ask for a networking appointment. He probably said something like, “I’m not looking for a job in your company. I just want to ask for some advice.” And you saw right through that, thinking to yourself, “What a lame-o.” So you said no.
And now you’re walking your own mile in that guy’s shoes. And to make matters worse, you would really like to give that very same guy a call because you heard he’s landed in a great company.
Networking takes a lot of time, initiative, energy, and stamina. So you need an approach to networking that’s not going to make you feel phony, lame, or desperate. Or judged. Or patronized. Or rejected. You don’t want to feel as though you’re using people as stepping stones to your next job. And you don’t want to put yourself and the people you talk to through the phony dance of pretending that that’s not what you’re looking for anyway.
You want a networking approach that’s driven by integrity, truly valuable conversations that bring value to both you and the people you’re talking to, and that will ultimately help you create and sustain a powerful and effective network that will endure your entire career (and put you in a great position to help others along the way).
It just requires a mental shift in perspective and attitude about networking and your role in the process. Throughout the rest of this book, we’ll show you how to create a networking plan that will help you achieve this great vision for yourself and your career. And then to turn your networking efforts into solid job offers –culminating into the one job that you say yes to. But for now, let’s start with a basic foundation.
Vina Galetto, a friend of Duncan’s, has a formula that she calls the Three B’s of High-Integrity Networking. True to her own generous nature, she’s happy to let us bring it to you.
1. Be there.
This means that you must start by being there for yourself and show up. Set goals. Understand how networks work, keep good records, and track where you are in the process. Celebrate successesalong the way; don’t just wait until you’ve landed a job. Keep in mind that good networking expands asyou learn of additional opportunities and introductions. If you find your list shortening and your circlescontracting, recalibrate your efforts to start expanding again (we’ll show you how soon…right now, wejust want to focus on your attitude and perspective).
2. Be yourself.
Understand who you are in the absence of a particular job title. Remember that yourcapabilities as a professional have not been taken away simply because you’re temporarily unemployed. Don’t let the absence of a corporate business card rob you of your identity and intrinsic value. It’s justcard stock. It’s just a moment in time. You own your career and your professionalism. No one can takethat away.
Engage with people in an authentic way. Keep in mind that the HJM networking meeting is always a conversation between peers. You’re not there to pitch your product to someone with all the power to buy what you have to sell. You’re there to compare notes with a professional colleague. So be a listener first. Curious people get the most out of networking conversations because they keep in mind that they’re there to learn, not to sell.
When you do speak, speak with them the way you would want to be spoken with. Get really comfortable with who you are, and what you bring to the marketplace. Get comfortable, even, with aspects of your past that you might ashamed of. If you are out of work involuntarily, you can anticipate some questions that might rattle your confidence. Know what those uncomfortable questions might be and have your answers –authentic answers – ready to deploy. These questions might be:
“So, how come you’ve been out of work for as long as you have?”
“Why were you selected to leave the organization? What happened?”
“Why didn’t you go back and get more education?”
“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
“Tell me about a time when you failed. What did you learn from that experience?”
You may never hear those questions asked of you – especially when you own the meeting agenda, as we’re going to teach you. But just knowing that you have a solid, prepared answer will give you the confidence to move ahead into new networking conversations with strangers.
3. Behave yourself.
It’s amazing how small the world is, especially when you’re pulled over at the side ofthe road, handing over your license and registration. It may be unfair – when you could use just onebreak in life right now – but you have to be operating on a much higher standard of behavior thanthat slob next door who is still pulling down a paycheck. People will be seeing you, even when you’renot looking. You may not have much control over your career prospects right this very minute, butyou can control whether you have that, “oh one little drinkee more won’t hurt” drink. Stay away fromparties that mix cameras with alcohol. (And we don’t need to tell you about those pictures on socialnetworking sites, do we?)
Be nice to everyone you meet. Be gracious, even to that driver who snagged that parking spot you had been politely waiting for. And don’t assume that just because that was a stranger you just vented your rage on that you’ll never see that person again. Right now, you’re in the business of meeting strangers. And you don’t want to put “extend sincere apology” on your list of things to do to “be yourself.”
Behaving yourself also involves being generous with your time and resources. You may be out of a job right now, but you aren’t flat out of recommendations, references, and referrals to give others. Say yes to people who reach out to you for a networking meeting. Even if you’re thinking that the people in your immediate circles can’t help you, maybe they can help that person. Your generosity to them might help dilute any feelings of scarcity you might be beating yourself up with about your own search. You’ll be helping both of you more than you can know.
The best thing you can do: Change your attitude about networking. It’s about meeting your colleagues, not banging a tin cup and begging for work.
The worst thing you can do: Send that flaming email about that rotten boss you had, the lame coworkers you had, and that the whole stinking world is unfair.
The first thing you can do: Google yourself to see what your image is online. Clean up any messy evidence of a regrettable evening – or entire past.