If you ask for a job, you’ll scare your network away. Here’s how to build relationships that will naturally lead to job opportunities.
Most people who network with the end goal of getting hired tell everyone they know that they’re looking for a job.
They anxiously ask, “Have you heard of anything?” The usual answer is, “No, but if I hear of something, I’ll contact you.”
End of conversation. Dead end.
Asking for job opportunities scares away your network
When you ask about potential opportunities outright, six bad things happen that make your job search less likely to be successful: (Click here to tweet this list.)
- You fail to create or deepen a friendship. Friendship is crucial for a good networking search, and can be developed rapidly — especially if you authentically and generously give back to people you encounter.
- You fail to have long, gossipy, rumor-filled conversations.
- You fail to learn about places that are busy, active and growing; meaning there’s work there, so they may be hiring.
- You fail to learn about places that have a good reputation and engaged, happy employees
- You fail to develop trust. Trust is crucial for a good networking search.
- To make matters worse, now that you have asked your contact to help you find a job, that person is not as likely to be friendly toward you. People — even really nice people — won’t help you find a job. And they feel guilty about that. The next time you contact them, you’ll get “the leper effect”: crickets and avoidance.
If you use the “J” word too soon in your job search, you’ll limit your chances to brainstorm and develop relationships. Instead, go on a job quest.
Your job quest will involve building in-person relationships and establishing trust quickly.
Here’s how to make meaningful progress without scaring away your network.
Prepare for your job quest
- Decide on your goal. What realm of work are you trying to get into? Narrow down your industry or career path.
- Do your research. Identify and describe the type of job and workplace you want. Write a mock ad for the job. Start with just one ideal workplace — you’ll learn about more places as you go.
- Study up. Make you have the skills you need to be welcomed by your dream employer. If not, invest in getting the right credentials.
- Practice. Be ready to articulate your dream job before you set out on your journey.
Begin your job quest
- Explore. As with any new journey, you need to be ready to ask for help — in the right way. Ask for directions, seek advice and information and brainstorm with everyone you meet. Tell people your dream and dilemma. Ask about people and places. Who’s out there doing the work you would like to do? What companies specialize in this type of work? Will your contact send an introductory email so you don’t end up in the spam filter? Ask questions that your network will be willing to answer.
- Look for the natural counselors. These are people in your chosen industry who enjoy advising. Use a “voice test” to find them. The voice of a natural counselor goes up slightly when they talk. In this case, e-mail won’t work; you’ll want to interact with people over the phone or in person.
- Schedule informational meetings. Talk about your dream and dilemma over a meal or cup of coffee. Talk about what is happening in your dream industry — don’t forget to discuss people and places. Remember: more magic happens in person.
- Look for essential elements. You need these four elements to be hired: You have the right skills for the industry; the company is busy and growing; the company culture is a good fit; a trusted contact is willing to reach out on your behalf. Watch for these elements as they start to fall into place.
- Earn endorsements. The ideal connection knows you, likes you, knows your work and work ethic and also knows someone where you want to work. Even better: they should offer to introduce you without you asking.
In-person networking that focuses on building relationships and trust improves your chances to be interviewed. By developing insider status among your new connections, you’ll have a leg up on the competition when positions become available.
Sheila Nielsen, author of Job Quest: How to Become the Insider Who Gets Hired, is a career counselor with more than 25 years of experience helping clients land the jobs they target. After years of work as a criminal prosecutor—first as an Assistant State’s Attorney and then as an Assistant United States Attorney—and with a master’s degree in social work, Nielsen opened her own firm in 1999.