Supposedly networking is the best way to get a job. It’s not working for me. People tell me about friends of theirs who work in different companies.
I call the friend-of-my-friend and say, “Hi, I’m a friend of Jane’s. Do you have any accounting jobs in your company?” They tell me they don’t know but they’ll check. Then
I get an email message that tells me to go to the company’s careers site. So what’s the point? I could have done that myself.
Am I doing something wrong?
What you’re doing is not networking. You’re making a sales pitch, and a very unfortunate one at that. It’s a sales pitch that is practically guaranteed to fail. Your sales pitch is “I’m friends with Jane, and so are you, so you should recommend me to the managers in your company. I realize you don’t know me and you’re taking a big career risk by vouching for me. Still, you should do it. What is in it for you? Nothing. What are you gonna do? It’s networking.”
Networking is a way of cultivating person-to-person relationships over time. The overture you’ve been using is almost the opposite of networking. Here’s this poor person living his life, harming no one. He’s sitting at his desk, doing his job. The phone rings and it’s you on the other end. You jump right in with your request. You tell the guy what you need during the first three seconds of the call. What about him? Does he have needs? Do we care about him at all? I hope you can see why people have been redirecting you to their companies’ Careers sites. You’re making it nearly impossible for them to do anything else.
If I have a job, my job is important to me. My relationship with my employer is important. I’m not going to take a chance recommending a complete stranger for a job. When you call me
I have to wonder “How well does Jane know this Archie, anyway? How come Jane never talked to me about Archie? How come Jane isn’t making this phone call herself?” Then, I have to wonder whether you are a good guy. I couldn’t endorse you based on one two-minute phone call. I am thinking “This guy is not showing the most highly-evolved interpersonal skills, right now on the phone. He’s calling me to hit me up for job leads. He isn’t the slightest bit curious about me or how I know Jane or who I am as a person; it’s all about him. What else can I do but direct him to my company’s Careers site?”
Let’s back up the truck and replay the scene. What if, instead of cold-calling people and hitting them up for job leads, you did this instead? “Jane, thanks for mentioning your friend who works at Acme Dynamite. Would you be comfortable introducing me to him?” Let’s say Jane says yes. Jane sends a two-way email introduction to you and the Acme Dynamite guy, Sam. In her email intro she says, “Archie, meet Sam. Sam used to date my sister in college and we’ve been friends ever since. Sam, I’d love for you to meet my friend Archie, who worked with me at Roadrunner Industries. Archie is a CPA and a super cool guy. I hope you two can connect before long.”
Now Sam, the guy who works in the company you’re targeting, has some assurance that you’re legit. Jane has recommended you and given Sam a context for the connection. With luck, Sam responds to Jane’s email with his own message saying he’d love to chat by phone. That’s fantastic! You call him up. You ask him about himself. You are curious about him — not just the open jobs in his company.
On that call, you create relationship “glue” with Sam. You don’t ask him about job openings at his employer, Acme Dynamite. That would be rude. He doesn’t owe you anything. He is as busy and overstressed as you are. You simply meet him, the same way you’d do if you were standing next to him at a block party or at a networking event.
Sam may say “So, Archie, what do you do professionally?” You tell him that you’re a CPA and you’re job-hunting. He might say “Maybe we have some Accounting openings here at Acme.” If he says that, you’ll say “Thanks, Sam. I’d love to find out about anything in the Finance area.” You follow his lead. You’ve known him for fifteen minutes. You’re not going to ask him for favors, but if he offers to do anything for you or find out more, you’re going to graciously accept, of course.
You will ask “What can I do for you, Sam?” Don’t assume that the favors flow in only one direction. Maybe Sam will say “You know what, I’m cooking up an entrepreneurial idea, at night. Could I get you to look at the business plan from a financial perspective, and tell me where my assumptions are all wet?” Of course you will do it. That’s what networking is all about.
Networking is soft, and it’s slow. It’s a long-term process, not a quick fix. It’s focused on the other person, not on our needs. If networking were just a matter of calling people and asking for their help, shoot, we’d start calling people out of the phone book. All their names and numbers are in there!
There is a networking learning curve, Archie, but every interaction helps you become more comfortable and more ‘them-focused’. That’s the key. Get out there and try it!