ed muses upon

2010/06/17

Staying Focused: Extra-Ordinary Networking


How we implement our job searches depends upon our needs and the job search techniques that suit our strengths.  But we can’t afford to ignore networking.  We all know the statistic: 80% of jobs are filled through networking.  Yet the nitty-gritty of how to network can be tricky.  Networking can seem not genuine, or artificial.  So how does one avoid that?

For me, successful networking depends upon my ability to solve someone else’s problem.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking with a hiring manager or someone else who’s in transition: the principle remains the same.  So I want to share some networking strategies I’ve observed that you might not have encountered.

Opportunity Knocks: Are You Listening?

My mother is difficult to shop for: she’s quite particular about things.  As a consequence, my siblings and I are in the habit of putting our heads (and wallets) together to find a suitable gift.  When I was younger, my sister despaired of ever getting useful ideas for presents from me: I routinely had no ideas to offer.  It took me years to understand that I should be on the lookout for present ideas as a matter of course.

We all have the same tools available to us to help someone else solve a problem: contacts, knowledge, or just serving as a sounding board.  So permit me to ask you a question: have you positioned yourself to see what those problems might be by asking what they are?

Asking such questions can be a powerful tool for engendering trust and goodwill—which leads me to the next point.

Specific Trumps General

It is very easy to say to someone, “If you need anything, let me know”.  In fact, it’s so easy that sometimes, we might say it before we realize we’ve done so.  I know that I have.  The problem with saying something general like that is that it’s so commonplace that it doesn’t actually mean anything.

When the checkout person at the supermarket asks “How are you”, he or she doesn’t want an actual, honest answer.  And for many of us, it’s a reflex to respond “Fine” in response, without even thinking about it.  But when a checkout person at a store asks, “Did you find everything you were looking for”, we’re more likely to respond meaningfully, aren’t we?

But both of these ideas, of always being on the lookout for opportunities or of being specific rather than general, can be distilled into a guiding principle: be extraordinary.

It’s worth noting the definition of “extraordinary”: beyond what is ordinary.  There are certain traits we each possess, certain skills or perhaps experiences, which make us unique.

I believe there’s a huge desire among people towards conformity: a desire to fit in or be part of the crowd.  But it’s our differences, how we stand out, that draw an employer’s attention.

Keith Bogan, founder of the Whine & Dine network, made this point explicitly: according to him, a recruiter gives a resume less than 20 seconds to catch his attention.  And note the phrase: “catch his attention”.

In other words: a recruiter is looking for something that does not conform.

Being extra-ordinary is ultimately a key part of how you execute your job search, because at the end of the day, being extra-ordinary will help you stay focused on the big picture: landing your next job.

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