Career Advice, Watercooler

Three Myths Of Professional Networking; How To Mine Your Network For A Job

It feels like you’re doing something wrong when work is hard to come by. Finding a job is supposed to be as easy as writing your resume, searching online for opportunities, sending in your resume, getting an interview, and then going to work. But if that doesn’t pan out, you’re supposed to be able to mine your network for opportunities. However there are often misperceptions and misunderstandings when it comes to professional networking and referrals. Below are three common myths I’ve come across:

Myth: Any referral can help

None of the myths about employment cover the fact that the economy makes a difference you can’t control. What I mean is that if your network doesn’t include access to growing companies and organizations, you are out of luck. For example, if you’re looking for a job in the auto industry, it’s going to be tough to find a job in Detroit no matter if you look for a job online or if you try looking for a job referral through your network.

Myth: Getting a good referral just needs a cocktail party

You need to create connections with people who have jobs or people who know them as a way of making your network work. But, shaking their hands, swapping business cards or meeting them at a networking event simply isn’t enough to make it play. A connection who doesn’t have all five of the following attributes can’t be helpful. A good person for a recommendation must:

  • Know someone who has jobs and the authority to fill them;
  • Be credible with that person;
  • Be able to pledge her credibility on your ability to do the job;
  • Know you well enough to bet her reputation on you; and,
  • Believe that your behavior will reflect positively on her.

That’s a tall order.

Plus keep in mind that over the course of a lifetime, most people get to know a group of 300 or 400 people. Whether or not you can network for a job within that group depends entirely on how many people with jobs are a part of your circle or theirs. In many cases, there’s just nowhere to go. It’s a part of the class structure of our society that the people who have jobs are often not a part of the networks of people who need them.

Myth: Your network knows who you are and what you do

Jobs come from relationships and recommendations. But, there’s a nuance to this reality that escapes most people. It’s not who you know. It’s who knows you and what they know about you that really matters. That means that you have to find ways to give your connections direct experience of you, your work ethic and skills.

The best way to do that is an upfront exchange. Give your newly minted connections the chance to work with you. Tell them that you want them to know you as a worker. Offer them a no-risk 30-day free trial of your services.

Here are three ways to get recognized:

  • Find out where they volunteer their time and become a volunteer there;
  • Offer to come work directly for them at no cost or as an independent contractor for the trial period; or
  • Place an ad on Craigslist to contract your services so that employers can find you.