One of my favorite concepts, which I was recently reminded of, comes from Phil801 who wrote a blog post back in 2006 titled Social Networks and Corporations. I wrote a post with my thoughts about it here, on July 5, 2006: What’s your value-add?(Robert Merrill write a follow-up post here, from a recruiter’s perspective)
Here’s the idea: if you have a network, can you bring value to a company or employer (or project or client) by bringing your network in? Imagine these two scenarios:
Scenario 1: Your company has a problem which is perplexing everyone on the team. Everyone has been so busy working for the company that they don’t have any contacts they can comfortably tap into, and they keep trying to solve the problem without getting outside help.
Scenario 2: Same problem but your team has been trained to expand their network and nurture relationships with their contacts. This is a part of the culture at your organization, and no one (read: bosses, management) feels threatened that you are spending time with others in the industry outside of your company.
Here’s my proposition for you: DO NOT WAIT FOR AN EMPLOYER TO MAKE IT OKAY TO HAVE A STRONG, NURTURED NETWORK!!
Maybe your employer doesn’t “get” networking. Maybe they are threatened by you having industry contacts. In my case, I think I didn’t network when I had a job because it seemed wrong (like I was cheating on my employer). I think it would have been fine, but I had a lot of hangups and assumptions.
I wish, oh how I wish, I would have gotten past my misunderstandings and issues and networked. Real relationships would have helped me in my last company, through my job search, and in my current role as business owner.
Career Management 2.0 is the new reality, and networking and relationships is a HUGE part of it. Even if your company doesn’t “let you” do it on company time, do it on your own time, and bring value to your company!
Many years ago, when I was setting up the categories for this blog, I created a category called “UNsocial Networking.” I’m sure I giggled when I put it into the list of categories, because really, how can you network in an unsocial way? Networking IS social!
But the term “social networking” has been hijacked by websites that facilitate networking online. For example, when someone says social networking they are clearly talking about Facebook or LinkedIn or something like that.
If someone simply says “networking” they are talking about something that scares the pants off of most people, right? We’re still quite intimidated by the concept of networking, especially if we think of it as a certain thing that we need to do to make sales, find a job, etc.
I would like to define unsocial networking (surely a phrase that will not catch on outside of this blog) as the natural, unscary part of networking.
Developing real relationships. Having real conversations. Emailing people. Following-up with people.
I’m not talking about the used-car-salesman schmoozing. I’m referring to the simple human interactions that we already do. I’m not even necessarily talking about a purposeful, strategic and planned networking activity, tactic or strategy. I’m talking about simply talking to someone.
Unsocial networking isn’t scary (unless you have social anxiety, and even then, one-on-ones can be comfortable and not scary). It is what we as humans do.
When I was in transition (the classy way of saying I was out of work) I felt like my hands were tied. The experts talked about giving to our network, not receiving, but I didn’t know what I could give.
I couldn’t really take anyone to lunch… how could I justify the expense of me eating out AND paying for someone else? That was money I didn’t feel like I had, when there were other expenses at home that needed to be taken care of.
I couldn’t really do anything I wanted to do, as far as giving.
I felt like a big mooch. It was like the “giving” part of networking was only for those who had enough money to really give. That wasn’t me.
After my networking epiphany, when it all started to make sense, I realized I had the only thing a job seeker would die to get. It wasn’t the comfort food and false sense of normalcy that going to a restaurant would provide. It was introductions.
By this time I had started to “get” networking. I was enjoying it. I was even seeing success, which I wasn’t seeing from my previous pathetic networking attempts.
Because of this, my network was growing and strengthening. And I finally realized the job seekers I was networking with would appreciate introductions to my contacts. Introducing contacts to one another put me in an interesting position, and my relationships strengthened… the more I met, the more I introduced, the more I grew. I started to see success, and I was helping other people. I became, as Keith Ferrazzi dubbed, a “power connector.” It was win-win-win.
And it didn’t cost me anything.
If you are holding back because you don’t have enough money, I encourage you to think about giving introductions to your contacts.
I somehow got turned on to Ari’s Take, an awesome blog of Ari Herstand. Ari is a musician who blogs about how to make money as an indie musician. I’ve been reading a number of his blog posts – they are awesome. Pretty much everything he writes about is the same stuff I’ve been writing about. Get the correlation between a job seeker and a musician trying to get on the map? Too many similarities to list. I’m sure the parents of a musician probably think they are unemployed.
Read the post, get inspired to call someone today… but also study his email strategy. He talks about one, two, three… even seven or eight emails! And check out the format, content, and message of his emails. Check out the email signatures (awesome, awesome!).
Folks, I’ve blogged about all this before. Now I’m sharing Ari’s post because I want to show you that improving your communication (email, phone, etc.) is something you need not just for this job search but for the rest of your career. Embrace this idea, don’t run from it! Get better at it NOW, consider your job search a time for personal training and improvement, and it will help you be better for the rest of your life!
Here’s a video of one of his songs, and here is his youtube page. Check him out!
I’ve run JibberJobber since 2006 and have found that January through March or April is the time when most people are (finally!) really serious about their own career management.
December feels like a month when you can’t really do anything… people complain that it’s a horrible month for the job search. Employees are out of the office, on vacation, and hiring decisions are left until the new year… so why try?
When I was in my job search I didn’t care what holiday it might have been, or whether it was a weekend or 3 am. I had anxiety, and I felt a great sense of urgency to do something to end my unemployment! I wasn’t doing the right things, but I certainly wasn’t going to celebrate anything (like a national holiday) simply because everyone else was. It’s hard to feel festive when you feel like an incompetent.
What’s more, many job search coaches say the holidays are definitely a time to do job search stuff, even if you employ different tactics. But let’s say you doing believe any of that stuff… what COULD/SHOULD you do between now and January 2nd?
Whether in a job search or not, smart, astute, “self-driven” professionals are going do something. It might be as baby-step simple as listing 10 – 20 people they need to talk to, or 10 – 20 companies they want to network into come January.
It might be something as in-depth and time-consuming as writing a book (even if it is a small ebook) with the purpose of establishing and enhancing their personal brand.
Depending on what your year (or last quarter) looked like, you might simply take this month off to do “nothing” – like read some books or articles you’ve been meaning to catch up on, take a real vacation and mentally, spiritually and physically recharge, to be ready for the next year.
Whatever you do, please don’t give up on December. Whether it is a strategic and very tactical job search to hopefully get some interviews or offers lined up in January, or a more long-term career management strategy, take the time to do something on purpose to finish out this year.
I can’t tell you what it should be – so you tell me… what will it be?
A few years ago I was inspired to write a post suggesting we don’t talk about or refer to “job security.” The idea was that there is no such thing as job security… of course. I proposed that we replace the phrase with INCOME security. That is, I am working on securing my income, which might come from multiple sources (not a single employer), might come sporadically (when I make a sale, or through quarterly royalties, or monthly rent payments, etc.).
Doesn’t that make sense? Shouldn’t we be working towards securing our INCOME, instead of chasing the 1900′s romantic idea of JOB security?
I thought it was brilliant, and wished I could come up with more of those ideas.
Last week I did. I was thinking of a friend of mine who lost his job as a programmer. My wife was concerned for him and his family (the sting of our unemployment can come right back when a loved-one starts their journey) but I told her I wasn’t worried about him at all. As a programmer of some hot languages, I was sure his job search would be very quick and easy. And it was. He has since landed and really has nothing to worry about.
As I was thinking about him, and his very short journey, I was thinking about the scariness, and stigma, of being unemployed. Or, of losing your job. Especially now, with the holidays near, where we’ll “have to” spend time with family and loved ones, and we all talk about what’s going on in our life… no one wants to be that one person who is unemployed. The token loser. Something must be wrong with you. Right? I know how it feels. I was there, for many months.
I was thinking, what if we go away from those stigmas (and assumptions) of “I lost my job,” and shift the mindset (or, have a “paradigm shift”)? What phrase would change the meaning and take away the sting? I came up with this:
“My contract ended.”
Think about it… a lot of people have contracts that end. And when the contract ends, you move on to the next contract. It’s not a horrible surprise (contracts are meant to end, whereas in some fantasy universe we tend to think that jobs aren’t supposed to end). Okay, sometimes the contract ends early, but not contractor believes their contracts will end when they are ready to retire.
Contractors should always prepare for the ending. They do this with:
fiscal responsibility (spend less than you make, save money for the bouts between contracts, etc.)
filling the pipeline (networking, putting bids out, etc.)
marketing themselves (know how to talk about your products/services, know when to talk about them, know who you want to talk to about them, etc.)
An employed person, though, who fears losing their job, doesn’t do these things the same way a contractor does. The employed person fears losing, the contractor prepares for the loss.
This phrase, when said out loud, changes the course of the conversation. Instead of “oh, you poor person who must have caused too much friction at work!”, it is more of a “Oh, sorry to hear that, what’s your next contract?”
This phrase, when you INTERNALIZE it, empowers you to be more in control of your career. You really do become the CEO of Me, Inc. You are no longer a victim of a bad boss, of HR, of the market, etc. You are empowered to prepare for the end of the contract.
Isn’t this awesome?
Many years ago I started working at a janitorial firm. In the first month or so of that job we lost a $5M contract. I went to work the next day a little nervous, wondering what kinds of cuts they might make at the corporate office. The CFO seemed happier than usual, and I somehow remember him whistling in the hallways as he went about his duties. Later I asked him to explain how they could lose such a big contract and still be happy, or not be overly worried.
He replied that the company had been in business for a long time, and that they had won and lost many contracts. It was no big deal, and there would be more contracts they would win. And in fact, they did win many more, and the company grew a lot while I was there.
That mentality is the same mentality that we, as CEO of Me, Inc., need to have.
This is something I’ve blogged about and talked about quite a bit, but yesterday I got an email that reminded me of how powerful this technique is.
And when I say technique, I’m saying this is something that awesome networkers do, whether they are introverts or extroverts, whether they are power connectors or have neglected their networking for a long time. In other words, you can do this right now, today (probably).
I got an email from a friend. A number of weeks ago I sent an email introducing this friend to someone he should network with. Don’t you do that – introduce two of your contacts to each other? His reply was very simple, one line:
“Thanks for the introduction to so-and-so. I called her and we had a really nice conversation.”
That. Was. It.
No reporting on what their conversation was, no gushing over-the-top thank you. Just a quick confirmation that he actually acted on the introduction.
You see, when I make an introduction to people in my network I am risking. When I hit send I secretly hope that you and the other person will connect, and maybe even get value out of your new relationship.
Many times, I’m left hoping, and never know what happens. Because too many people don’t follow-up. Many times I forget, so it’s no big deal. But if I’ve introduced you to a heavyweight in my network I’m going to wonder, and perhaps worry, just a little bit. I’m going to be hopeful, but I’m usually not going to ask if you even got my email (because you didn’t follow-up).
If you do follow-up, with a simple one-liner, like what the person emailed me above, I will be really excited, and here’s why: I’ll know I can trust you with my introductions and contacts.
Honestly, when I got the email above my thought was this: “Who else could I introduce to this person? He actually appreciates it, and follows-up on it!”
I wanted to work for him, right then! I wanted to help him. And the trust level increased significantly.
Want to make someone really want to help you? Simply follow-up with them, especially if they have “given” you anything, whether that is an introduction, advice, or anything like that.
I am a huge, huge, huge fan of informational interviews. If you don’t believe in them I’m guessing you don’t know how to do them right (there is more than one right agenda, but there are many, many wrong ways of doing an informational interview).
Actually, that is coincidental, not by merit. But here is what Joshua Waldman says:
“My friend and mentor Jason Alba started JibberJobber.com in 2006 and can claim development of the first online job-search platforms. By far, JibberJobber offers jobseekers the most comprehensive set of tools for managing relationships, job searches, and careers.”
Isn’t that cool? I like “the first”, “By far,” “the most comprehensive”… those have a nice ring to them
In the first edition, Joshua listed JobKatch.com and becomed.com in the list of “tools to organize your job search.” Those are both out of business. Of the others that are listed in the second edition, I’m guessing that three won’t be around in a year or two.