Today more than ever, the net rules! Not the Internet. Not by a long shot. I mean your own network. When giving seminars and talks, I like to surprise people with statistics that reveal why sitting behind your monitor actually impedes an effective job search. It’s necessary to some extent, sure. But not the best use of all your time.
A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics several years back shows that a whopping 48 percent of job seekers secured employment via referrals from friends or relatives. That’s nearly half! And the most I’ve ever heard the Internet yielding is 10 percent. That’s still nothing compared to the power of referral.
So I ask you: Got referral?
Most anyone is a friend
Since you’re born with your relatives and can only expand that niche through marrying or being adopted, the key is making more friends. Webster’s Dictionary defines a friend as “one who is attached to another by affection or esteem; an acquaintance; one who is not hostile.” That last bit of definition really opens it up, doesn’t it? If all those not “hostile” to you are friends, you have a lot of room to play.
We can’t let our high-tech world diminish the eternal need for high-touch career development. Folks, it will never, ever change. Whether technology gives us phone; e-mail; videophone; or surround-sound, handshake-simulation devices, the nuances and human energies that evolve from face-to-face meetings will always prevail in terms of career transition. It simply comes down to meeting people. Meeting them in a memorable way is all the better. If you can be so memorable that you stay top of mind, you’ll lead the pack. And, if you maintain that top-of-mind status through constant contact, you’re home free.
So, let’s talk about networking. What makes someone willing to take the time to meet with you? It’s surely not your need for a job. I’ve said it before, and I’ll sing this song forever: The best way to get a job is not to be looking for one. If you need something that someone might not be able to give you, their natural tendency will be to say “no” to a meeting. That’s why your letter and resume gets shuffled off to HR which places you in the job-seeker vat.
Make friends feel like they will succeed
To combat the vat, you have to approach people in a way that appeals to their natural human nature to be helpful while removing all chance that they won’t succeed. If you need a job, they might not succeed. On the other hand, if you need information, guidance or direction, they will win and maybe get their Good Samaritan ego stroked at the same time.
The second biggest block to people being willing to meet you is time. We all have so little of it, and people working their jobs today are very cautious about time. So, you don’t ask for a lot. A dab will do you. Requesting a five-to-10 minute meeting, face-to-face, in their office to explore a subject you’re researching is enough to get on the radar. With effective personal branding in place and by understanding the human nature of informational interviews, you can make a memorable initial impression. Further, it can be elevated to “friend” status through regular maintenance of that relationship. You never even have to say you’re looking for a job because, when people can help, they do so without your even asking. But you have to get in front of them.
Even more critical than the all-important job you need is the wealth of relationships that can build from the referrals you’ll get to others who can assist in your research. Again, you can’t play this as a game to get a job. People will smell through it. But if you demonstrate a legitimate research effort, you’ll be given names of others to assist in the effort.
Look at it this way. If you have a small music station in the middle of a valley, you’ll be able to broadcast pretty well in the valley. However, if you place more antennas in strategic locations along the mountain ridge, your signal will reach across to the other side. You’ll have a wider broadcast and, therefore, have more song requests coming your way. That’s how you want to develop your career tribe — to get your song out to a wider audience.