The arrival of summer means many things to different people. For some it marks the beginning of a nice relaxing vacation. For others, it’s time to follow their favorite baseball team.
But for the job seeker the warm weather means it’s time to get to work.
While many others may take the summer off, it’s the perfect time to turn up the heat on your network. “In the summer, when people are a little happier, this represents a good time to get out there and get to know people,” said Eric Chen, an associate professor of business administration at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Conn. “Summertime is great,” he said. “People are more than willing to talk to you — provided they’re a trusted source and there’s a common interest.”
In other words: Don’t be shy, especially in the summertime. Besides, Chen said, there are a lot of ways to ask the question “without really asking the question.” You could ask an executive that you’re chatting with at a neighborhood barbecue, “Do you think I’d be good at this?” Or you could leverage your friend’s family connections by saying, “Your uncle’s in the field, would you mind introducing me?”
These are basic examples of how to get your foot in the door, and Chen says you won’t come off as pushy or stalkerish if you’re approaching the person through some type of commonality such as volunteering together, belonging to the same association, graduating from the same school or having a mutual friend.
Don Straits, CEO of Corporate Warriors, calls it “The 3 Ft. Rule” because in the summer you can talk to anyone within three feet you.
Chen calls it relationship-building and compares it to something of a summertime activity. “People like to develop relationships,” Chen said. “They’re really friendships and there’s a quid pro quo aspect to it.” He said the key is to find out what things you have in common with the person who could help you, and this can largely be done by searching for all sorts of details online. “This borders on getting a little creepy, but you have to know what discussion items are on the table,” Chen said. “Just fishing for commonality won’t cut it.”
Contrary to traditional seasonal hiring patterns, Chen said there could be an uptick in summer hiring this year as opposed to the usual slowdown. He points to the recent reversal in outsourcing as companies, which have been employing workers overseas, change their minds and begin to bring jobs back to the United States. How the economy plays out remains to be seen, but either way, Chen said the time to network is right now because more people are open to it and feeling social.
It doesn’t matter whether or not managers are hiring at the moment — they will eventually. It also shouldn’t matter if you have a job or not because networking isn’t always about getting a current opportunity. It’s often about setting up that next opportunity. “If you network because you need a job today, you’ve failed,” Chen said. “You have to network before you need the job. Worrying about your next job when you’ve just got let go is too late.”