Category Archives: Networking

Nuts and Bolts of Networking

I recommend strategically meeting people who can lead you to a “coach on the inside” of 50 growing companies in the growing industries and geography of your choice. How do you do this?

1. Make a list of 50 companies that you think meet the definition above.

2. Divide the list into 5 category columns of about 10 companies each.

3. Add all of your contact information to the top of the page, like on your resume.

4. Make a couple copies.

5. Arrange to meet with someone in your network for coffee or over lunch.

6. If you are currently employed, you are going to need to be careful to secure their agreement to keep your conversation confidential. You will also need to give some color around why you are looking to move. If you are unemployed, you need to give some explanation around your last departure.

Compliance7.  Let them know you’ve spoken with a career transition coach (this will also tell them you are serious), and he suggested that you learn more about the marketplace for your skills before actually looking for a job; that way your next move will be a better long-lasting fit. Ask if they can help.

8. They may say yes, but if they equivocate with something like “I don’t know how,” say the coach told me to draw up a list of companies (don’t say 50 – that sounds overwhelming) and go through the list and get people’s reactions, positive or negative, particularly around a company’s growth prospects.

9. Pass them a copy of the list; keep a copy for yourself to write notes on. Start with the first category and go through the list.

10. Some companies they won’t know, some they will have positive things to say, some negative. Take notes on your sheet next to each company. At the end of the category, ask if they can think of any companies in that category that aren’t on your list, but should be. Note them.

11. At some point they will begin to tire, or you will get to the end of the last category. Now go back and ask about the companies for which they had positive things to say. How do they know these things? Did they read it do they know someone there? Who do they know? If possible get someone’s name and contact info. If you can get contact info for 3 people from your meeting, your meeting is a success!

12. Thank the person. Send a handwritten thank you note. Connect with them on LinkedIn if not already connected. Put them on a tickle for a monthly email to update them subtly to let them know you are still in the market, but don’t get in their face.

13. Edit your list of companies to remove those that scored negatively, and add any new ones.  Repeat this process with as many of the contacts as they offer. These people, who are inside growing companies in which you are interested, can be your “coach on the inside” when an opportunity arises. They may even be able to alert you before a job is posted.

14. Never eat lunch alone, or with coworkers. Get away for coffee as much as you can. If you can, meet with 2 people a day – use weekends to catch up, so 10 people a week. Studies show that on average it takes about 75-80 meets like this to get a job interview. So that’s 2 months straight of hard core networking. Most people can’t keep up that pace. And 75-80 meets is the average – half of job searchers will need more meets to get an interview.  Plan for this length of time, this level of work, and this percentage of ‘failures’ before success.

Golden Ticket

The Importance of Identifying Job Vacancies

The ‘Golden Ticket’ of job searching is having a pre-existing relationship with the hiring manager. This means that you know the hiring manager before the hiring manager is hiring. In fact, he or she may have you, or someone like you, in mind before they even sit down with HR to describe the position they want to fill. If they really want someone like you, they may have asked you for a resume before working with HR to review or write the job description. This is the situation that people mean when they say “most jobs aren’t advertised.” Eventually this job will actually be advertised, but the front-runner will be known. If that front-runner is you, then that’s a ‘Golden Ticket.’

The power of having a large network of relationships (not just connections on LinkedIn, but real pre-existing relationships) is that you have more ‘Golden Ticket’ opportunities.

Now let’s talk about the ‘Paper Ticket:’ A job at ABC company has been advertised for a couple weeks and someone I don’t have much relationship with contacts me and says “do you know anybody at ABC company? They are advertising a perfect job for me!” I can connect them with someone I know there, but the reality is, this is way late in the process. I give them the “Paper Ticket,” but it will be quickly torn in half, and they will be directed to queue up with all the other unknown applicants.

Paper Ticket

There is something in between – not as good as a ‘Golden Ticket,’ but not as flimsy as the ‘Paper Ticket.’ Let’s call it a ‘Silver Ticket.’ That’s when you learn of a vacancy before the job has been advertised, and hopefully before the job description has been reviewed. You don’t have a pre-existing relationship with the hiring manager, and if someone else does, then their Golden Ticket is going to trump your Silver Ticket. But if the hiring manager doesn’t have someone in mind, connecting with them at this critical juncture may allow your resume to influence their thought process in reviewing the job description.  Certainly, in the back of their mind, you could become the standard against which they evaluate other candidates who respond to the ad.

Silver Ticket

So how do you find out about these vacancies before the job ad to fill them is shared with the market.  LinkedIn is a great source of this type information.  First, LinkedIn will inform you when your connections update their profiles with a new position (unless they have changed the default setting). If they have a new position, that usually means they left an old position, and there is a vacancy. Sometimes the change is a promotion in title, and there is no vacancy; sometimes the “new job” is a part-time activity in addition to their job, which they still have.  In some cases they have updated their profile so tardily that the job was probably filled months ago.  You need to review their profile closely to better understand the situation, and then it may be worth reaching out to them to fully understand.

There are also times when your connections will update their profile, but because they’ve changed the default settings, the change won’t show up on your notification feed. It’s always a good idea as you network and job search to take note of anyone’s profile who appears to have recently changed positions.

Finally, if you are a member of the Opt for Change group on LinkedIn, you may see that I post from time to time “New Job Vacancy?” when I see someone in my network has left a position.  In all of these cases, it’s important to remember that just because someone left, doesn’t mean there is a vacancy.  The position may have been eliminated, or there may have been an internal succession candidate who was moved into the role (which may create a lower level opportunity).

The Prey Defines the Hunt

At one end of the spectrum are jobs that require a person to think on their feet, to be creative, adaptive, articulate, persuasive, engaging, and to show initiative.  On the other end of the spectrum are jobs that are mundane, routine, rote, repetitive, tedious, monotonous, dull and boring.  Jobs at either end are hard.  Jobs in the middle are hard.  It’s just a different kind of difficult.  Spending 8 hours a day repeatedly asking the same questions like “Paper or plastic?” or “Would you like fries with that?” is actually really hard – it’s maddening.  The repetitiveness makes it hard.  Spending 8 hours a day trying to come up with the right questions to ask in the right order when preparing for a deposition, or when calling on a new customer is also really hard. The creativity, the analysis, the second-guessing oneself, is all very difficult.  As a colleague of mine is find of saying: “Jobs are hard.  That’s why we call it ‘work’ and not ‘play.'”

In this post I offer the proposition that when you are job hunting, the type of job you are hunting defines the type of hunt in which you should be engaging.  If you want a simple, repetitive job – it doesn’t have to be in fast food or a grocery store – it could be at Google or Apple or Tesla (they have routine jobs too), then you should employ a simple, repetitive job hunting technique.  Such a technique would have a single resume (or maybe just your LinkedIn profile) that you would use for every job that has a one-touch or Easy Apply application.  You wouldn’t waste time tailoring to, or maybe even reading, the job ad – just click and send to as many jobs as possible, repeat, repeat, repeat.  On the other end of the spectrum are jobs that aren’t even advertised, that don’t even exist, for which you have to get an appointment, and then go in and convince the company that they need to fill a job they didn’t know they had, and that you’re the person for that job.  That would be the “Not Easy” button.

Most job hunters employ tactics somewhere between these two extremes.  However, as you tend towards one end or the other, I would suggest your outcomes will also tend toward one end or the other.  Those job hunters who tend to apply to jobs online repetitively are more likely to encounter more rejection, but also when they eventually find employment are more likely to find employment that is less creative in nature.  Job hunters who demonstrate the initiative to network into growing companies in growing industries are more likely to have jobs structured around their skills, or at least be considered ahead of other candidates for more tailored roles.

So here’s the observational ‘anecdata’ I offer to support my hypothesis. I coach a lot of people through career transitions, especially job searches.  I find those who follow a network-heavy approach are more likely to find jobs they find satisfying, tailored to their skills and desires.  I find those that follow an approach that is predominantly job-ad responses have a more difficult, longer time to find employment, and when they eventually do find employment, they are less satisfied, and tend to continue their search or within a year, restart a search.

So why do people not network?

There are 4 actions a candidate can take to find a job.  Three are easy; one is hard.  The hard path is networking, and it requires a candidate to actually demonstrate skills that many people will say they have, and may believe they have, but they actually lack.  These are the ability to think on their feet, to be creative, adaptive, articulate, persuasive, engaging, and to show initiative.

THE 4 Routes

Employers will almost always prefer, and pay more for, candidates who come through the networking gauntlet versus the candidates who just push the “Easy” button.

Professional Networking for Introverts

Back in 2008 I instructed a continuing education course through the University of North Carolina at Charlotte called “Professional Networking for Introverts.”  Although I’d already been a member of LinkedIn for over 4 four years, it was still a relatively obscure social media platform, but I thought it was a particularly good professional networking tool for introverts.  It’s gone through lots of changes since 2008, but LinkedIn remains one of the best tools to help introverts network effectively.

Professional Networking for Introverts

Professional Networking for Introverts

In 2014 Dorie Clark published a short article in the Harvard Business Review called Networking for Introverts that I think offers some good suggestions for introverts to use in advancing the effectiveness of their job-search networking. She recognizes that most introverts prefer “minimally stimulating environments.”

So one of her first suggestions is to create your own events.  These can be smaller events, focused on subject matter of your interest, and you get to control the size and make-up of the audience.  In my experience, if you are willing to do the leg work, others really appreciate the opportunity to attend these types of small events.  I’ve used this technique myself for networking, though not job-search networking.  I created a Power Podium to bring speakers in to speak on energy topics of interest to the ~25 person office in which I work. In addition, I invite about 5 to 10 other power industry professionals with whom I (and I assume others in my office) would like to network.  We don’t regularly schedule the Power Podiums; in fact some are very opportunistic, like when a speaker happens to be in Charlotte from out of town.  But it provides a forum where I can offer some continuity of speakers.  I got the idea for the Power Podium from when I was invited to speak to the Ministry of Environment in Ontario at their Green Podium.  I was an opportunistic invite who happened to be in Toronto to speak at another conference.

Although not one of Ms. Clark’s recommendations, I often suggest that job-seekers consider creating a group on LinkedIn, or some other social media platform, tailored to a subject area and/or geographic region they know well.  Sharing articles with these groups can be an effective way to both get to know an existing network better, as well as expand your network as colleagues of colleagues are invited or request to join the group.

The article goes on to suggest that introverts

  • Understand when you’re at your best
  • Rate the likelihood of connecting, and
  • Calibrate your schedule

To me these can all be summed up by playing to your strengths.  Go to events where you are likely to be successful, at times when you are likely to be successful.  At large events, think about events within the event, which are going to be fruitful.  When I go to trade shows coupled with technical meetings, I find the trade show floor to be much more accommodating when most of the people are at technical presentations.  So I always pick a presentation time to skip on purpose and go to the trade show floor to meet vendors when they aren’t overwhelmed.  I also find a conference breakfast to be an easier time to meet people than lunch or dinner, so I always try to arrive early and sit with someone I don’t know.  These may or may not be good approaches for you.  The point is figure out the times and places that you can be successful, usually through experimentation.


The Rise of the Zombie Connectors℠!

I like to think of myself as one of the early adopters of LinkedIn. I’ve been a Member since February 20, 2004. [If you were an earlier adopter, let me know. I’m always looking for people who remember when you had to connect with people you didn’t know, because there were so few people on LinkedIn, it was hard to find anyone you knew].

One of the great strengths of LinkedIn is that it has morphed repeatedly to new environments; it’s seldom been the best tool you might have imagined for the particular job you want done, but it’s been a pretty good utility tool for a lot of different jobs. I used it early on to meet innovative people, then as more folks joined, I started to use it to reconnect with people. I used it to job search, and I used it to hire employees. I remember all the squawking when profile photos were implemented – some people were sooo against that! But LinkedIn has survived by being adaptive and tolerant of many types of users. For me, it’s not the tool it once was, but it’s still a pretty good tool. For others, it’s not as good, but for many more, it’s just a different tool.

LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers)

We’ve always had users who find value in connecting with everyone they can. I’m not one who perceives that value. When your connections devolve into a list of people you don’t know, it just seems like a phone book to me, and I already have one of those that works better and covers more people – it’s called Google. In any case, LIONs usually announce themselves in their Headlines or even their Names, so you know when you’re getting an invitation from a LION. I usually click ignore.

Zombie Connectors℠

There are some people who reach out to connect with me using the standard ‘no message’ option which LinkedIn provides.  Years ago I noticed that when I reached out to these people, they almost never responded back.  I call these people who don’t respond: Zombie Connectors℠.

Zombie Connectors

For several years I have employed a standard practice of replying to those who invite me to connect, but whom I don’t know, with the question: ‘How may I be of assistance?’  It’s really amazing to me but the vast majority do not even respond.  I let them sit there for 6 months, when LinkedIn automatically withdraws their request.  At any given time I have over 100 Zombie Connectors℠ who have invited me to connect, but haven’t responded to my message back.

I can’t emphasize how poorly this reflects on them as individuals, or how it also reflects poorly on their employers.  You don’t want to be a Zombie Connector℠.  If you are going to invite someone to connect with you, you need to be responsible enough to be responsive.  Whether you are actively job searching, or just passively in the market, there is not only the possibility that someone will remember that you ignored them, there is probably a record of it in their LinkedIn messages.

Always Job Search During the Holidays

It’s the best time of the year!
1. Neighbors, friends, former vendors, former suppliers and potential employers are all sponsoring networking events they call “parties”
2. People want to be helpful this time of year
3. Budgets start January 1, and good managers want to have the ball rolling on new hires before then
4. The competition thinks it’s a bad time to job hunt, so they’re watching TV
5. People who are in the office between Christmas and New year’s have time to meet you for coffee or lunch – try to schedule 15 meetings that week.

Infographic: Job searching during the holidays

Holiday Job Search

Networking: The Golden Ticket

LinkedIn is a useful tool to assist networking, but it’s just a tool to help you get face to face with people. Face to face is where the real networking happens. You may hear some people say that most jobs aren’t even advertised. That’s not entirely true – most jobs do get advertised, but by the time they get advertised they usually already have a leading candidate, and maybe two. The golden ticket in job searching is to have a relationship with the hiring manager before the job gets advertised. You want to be that leading candidate. Job openings most open to external candidates occur in growing companies, so you will want to try to network into those companies experiencing growth, even if they don’t currently have an opening that fits you.

So look for companies that are in growing industries that are adding people. If your experience is in a declining industry, think about switching industries. It’s hard, but consider what functions you can perform that are transferrable to another industry. You can change industry or you can change function, but you can’t change both in one move. Larger companies tend to destroy the net number of jobs through acquisitions. There are replacement jobs in big publicly traded companies when people leave, but not much actual growth of new jobs. Therefore in these companies internal candidates get a high percentage of open positions,especially if their current roles are destined for elimination. Smaller companies are the real job creators, and fewer candidates look there. Especially in a contracting industry, the growth companies are the smaller ones, but they are harder to find. You really need to network to find them.

Golden Ticket

Tough Love: Networking has a Goal

To paraphrase the mantra from Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign, it’s the networking, stupid. There are people who are taking the coaching and doing the hard work of networking. They’ve written down their list of 50 target companies and broken it into bite size groups of 10 or less. They’ve met with people and asked them about each of these companies and about other growth companies that they should consider. They’ve honed that list with the information from those meetings. They’ve asked the people they’ve met for the names of contacts at these companies, and they’ve contacted those people to meet with them, and further hone their list of companies. This is how they networked into growing companies and gotten considered for jobs that hadn’t yet been advertised. How have you been networking? What’s your process? Where is your list of target companies? Just talking over and over to the same handful of friends is not networking. Networking has a goal, and you can measure the progress toward the goal. If you can’t produce your list of target companies, then you don’t have a goal – you are just aimlessly responding to job ads. If you can’t show how that list of target companies has evolved over time, and how you have identified and grown your contacts within that target list over time, then you aren’t making progress.


Comfortable Looking? Or Looking Despite Discomfort?

Survey Shows Younger Workers Most Comfortable Job Hunting While Employed

Survey Shows Younger Workers Most Comfortable Job Hunting While Employed

Recent articles in the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Charlotte Business Journal, and Pittsburgh Business Times draw some interesting, albeit suspect, conclusions about an Accountemps study of job search habits of employees over 18.

The Accountemps study press release supports the adage “the best time to look for a job is when you already have one.” And here’s the good news: nearly 3/4’s of office employees feel “very comfortable” or “somewhat comfortable” heeding this advice.  The remaining quarter are “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” looking for new employment before leaving their current firm.  That doesn’t mean they don’t do it; it just means they are anxious about doing it.  The authors, as well as the business journal reporters, seem to have missed this last point.

The Silicon Valley reporter drew the conclusion that the study “found stark disparities in new job search tactics among workers of different age groups.” Several of the articles were critical of younger workers, aka millennials, because of their higher level of comfort with “looking for a new job while on the clock for their current employer.”   

Unless you get paid overtime for receiving those evening and late night emails on your smart-phone, you are always “on the clock.” So this understanding of the study suffers at its inception from misconstruing the questions answered. However, I think the difference in age groups stems as much from perception by the responders to the questions and the responders stage of their career, as much as any difference in “job hopping” sentiment.

Millennials blur the lines of work and personal time, or rather they don’t try so hard to keep them separate. When you ask a millennial when he/she is at work, they are much more likely to reply “all the time.” They are more likely to see “the place” they work to be irrelevant to any designation of being “at work.” They are “at work” emailing on public transportation; they are “at work” when they answer a call at dinner; they are “at work” when they prepare a presentation from a beach house. Because they work from so many “personal” locations, they naturally conduct more personal business from more traditional “work” locations.

The other bias in this survey is the definition of “job search activities.” For this study job search activities encompass only those activities that can be conducted at a traditional office location, and activities focused on those early in their careers.

The reason people over 50 don’t spend time at work “searching online job applications” is that it’s a waste of their time. By the time you get 30 years into your career, networking is far and away the most productive way to job search – every outplacement consultant will tell you this. But networking with professional colleagues at trade association events, off-site professional continuing education seminars, at coffee shops, or even golfing, aren’t listed – this is the way people with 30 years experience find jobs: networking with colleagues they know to people they don’t.

People who are in an earlier stage of their career can benefit to a much, much higher degree from responding to online job ads or, as they get just a few years of experience, working with professional recruiters.  Obviously any data would show a younger bias toward these activities.  The press release mentioned no efforts to compensate for this inherent bias.

My conclusion is that these articles, like far too many I read on job searching, promote stereotypes which in addition to the inherent problems with any generalization, also inaccurately criticize the behavior of entire groups of employees.

Blue-on-White-Opt-for-Change.png“The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed. Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can. The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job.

Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.  I call the process of doing your art ‘the work.’  It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin.  The job is not the work.”   ― Seth GodinLinchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Nuts and Bolts of Face-to-Face Job Search Networking: The Introduction

It is important to lower the defensiveness that a weak or new connection may have when you first network with them at a coffee shop or similar situation. They know you want a job; they know they don’t have one to give, and that makes them feel awkward before you even meet.  It’s important to get off on the right foot.

Once you’ve identified each other (another reason to have your photo on your LinkedIn profile), quickly introduce your situation.  You want to accomplish five (5) things as quickly as possible:

  1. You want to thank them for agreeing to meet with you.
  2. You want to acknowledge the person who connected you.  
  3. You want to relate your situation positively.  
  4. You want tell them you’re not looking for job yet.
  5. You want to tell them what you do want, information – which they do have, which will help you in understanding the market for your skills.

Consider combining these in a fluid, rehearsed statement, such as the one below:

“Thanks for agreeing to meet with me.  I know you’re busy so I’ll try to be as brief as I possible.  [John] may have mentioned to you that I was recently let go from [former employer] as part of a reorganization and downsizing. I’m not actually looking for a job yet.  I was given a good severance package, but I’m not set for life or anything.  With that said, I’m comfortable enough for the near term, and want to make a good, long term decision for my next position.  I spoke to a career counselor who suggested that I re-acquaint myself with the market for my skills before starting my job search in earnest.  So that’s what I’m doing – and I hope you can help me with – just getting a better understanding of the current market for [my profession in my geographic area], essentially what potential employers are out there – who’s doing well, and who’s not – what’s up and coming that you’ve heard about.  My career adviser called it a personal marketing plan, and that’s what I’m in the early stages of developing.  It’s actually pretty interesting.”

Of course they want to help, or they wouldn’t be there. You’ve just relieved their defensiveness by telling them how they can help.  The last line about it being interesting is important because it engages people’s curiosity.  They will want to learn about what you’ve learned because we all have been, or could see ourselves being, where you are.


“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
― Andy WarholThe Philosophy of Andy Warhol