If you cringe at the recommendation to network your way to your next job, you’re probably thinking of:
— Pushy, intrusive, or desperate people;
— Contacting former colleagues or classmates out of the blue;
— Making awkward small talk at large gatherings; or
— Engaging in other equally unpleasant, unnatural activities.
Forget trying to psych yourself up to approach other people in your time of need; setting aside your dignity; and abandoning respect for others. Eliminate these activities–and even the “networking” word–from your vocabulary!
Instead, reach out to others in natural and genuine ways: people you know, knew in the past, or are yet to meet. The principle is simple: It’s about tending to relationships through acknowledgment and thoughtfulness. It has nothing to do with being a pest or assuming a begging mindset.
Here are seven practical suggestions for maintaining already-established relationships and for fostering new ones.
► Send a “thinking of you” or “touching base” message to a former colleague, a friend, or a current customer. Whether handwritten, sent by email, or delivered by phone, your message expressing your appreciation and good wishes will brighten their day.
► When you see an acquaintance or business associate cited in print or online, send a congratulatory note or an extra copy of the print article.
► Treat a referral source to coffee or lunch.
► Take advantage of an opportunity to volunteer, especially if it’s on a project or for a cause you have a natural interest in or believe in, e.g.: serving on a committee to establish a neighborhood dog park; accompanying your child’s class on a field trip; participating on a company athletic team.
► Be friendly in even the most routine situations. For example, while I was “stuck” in a long line at the grocery store recently, the normal “this sure is a long line” small talk with the person in front of me turned into a fun and unexpectedly productive conversation. When my checkout-line friend learned that I’m a career counselor, she laughed: she’s a medical recruiter for SSM. We exchanged contact info and will meet in a few days to follow up.
► Send occasional professional news and updates about your own activities to selected contacts via email, LinkedIn or other appropriate sites.
► Offer to meet over a cup of coffee or lunch with a friend or colleague who’s doing a job search. Your interest and offer to help may be just the boost your contact needs. Such kindness is not forgotten.
The result? A web of contacts–a NATURAL network–founded on mutual goodwill. In addition, getting to know and staying in touch with others, when done with a genuine desire to share information and resources, can be rewarding in itself. In any case, when the need arises for you to reach out for information or to ask for help, you’ll have connections with people who are happy to respond. AND your dignity and self-respect will remain intact!
“Be careful of long-term dreams” is the first of “Nine Life Lessons” offered by Tim Minchin, Australian comedian, actor, and musician in his 2013 commencment address at Western Australian University.
Thanks to Facebook, I ran across the video of Minchin’s address. (Although the clip is 18 minutes long, his comments last only 12 minutes–the last six minutes show him receiving an honorary degree).
His Life Lessons provoke thought, laughter, and are often irreverent; and they’re worth considering. Most relevant to careers is the first lesson: “Be careful of long-term dreams.” Take a look and listen! Tim Minchin’s Nine Life Lessons.
Consider a CAP (Career Action Planning) Session if you:
> Feel stuck or stalled in your career
> Are worried about a layoff
> Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
> Have been looking for work but not getting results.
In this 90-120-minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it. For more information call me at 314-752-1373 or use the comment form on my website.