Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.
OK, in the last lesson, I got you started thinking about stories you could share… maybe the exercise felt a little bit disconnected to some of you. Well, here’s where the rubber meets the road.
We are going to do three things in this lesson. First, we are going to ask, “What do we want? Why are we investing so much time and energy in our communications?” Second, we are going to picture the people we are connecting with. As we do this, the importance of the last lesson will start to become clear. And third, we are going to re-prioritize our perspective, goals, and and environmental needs based on what we’ve learned. (At the same time, we will also change the type of feedback we are looking for when networking.)
This question is not rhetorical. Grab a scrap of paper or pull up Word, and answer this: “When you meet someone, what’s the point… what do you want?” Spend a few minutes on this, then continue reading.
What you need is a job. But that’s not the point of every interaction, is it? That’s like a salesperson saying that he’s trying to close business in every interaction—impossible. There is a whole cycle salespeople go through, from introduction to pre-sale to sale to post-sale support to renewal. Social interactions work similarly: we size people up, determine the likelihood of a match, seek common ground, help the person, ask for help, etc… and every relationship moves at its own pace.
So, what do you want? I’ll tell you what I want: I want a network of people who value their relationship with me. I want people in my life who will go out of their way to help me because that’s the kind of people we all are. I want to be able to tell someone, “I’m working on X” and have them come to me with, “Have you thought about calling so-and-so?” I want free and easy exchanges and a long-term perspective where people don’t worry about quid pro quos because they know someone else in the network will pay it forward to them later.
This is the kind of network that will not only find me a job, but will support my career and help me succeed at every step along the way. People who can find you a job are nice, but once you find the job… then what? Start building a network now of people you can call on 2, 5, 10 years down the road. Twitter and Facebook are great for starting these relationships, just don’t forget, when you find someone you like, to pick up the phone and introduce yourself. The longer you wait, the more awkward it gets, and the objective is to have a network that makes success easy, not awkward!
I dunno. Do you?
Let’s tackle this question in the abstract first: Imagine you are a hiring manager at a company.
Really picture yourself: Where do you live? How much do you make? Are you married? Do you have kids? What do you do at night and on the weekends? What’s your relationship to this sharp young gun trying to get you to hire him/her—are you a peer? old enough to be a parent? threatened? relieved? How did you get to your current job? How did you find work after graduation?
What’s your story?
We don’t know, do we? We need to be ready to adapt to whatever this person throws at us and run with it. We need to be able to break out of the formal conversation in order to learn about this person, so we can determine if this is someone we should be networking with, and if so, how to do so effectively. We also need to be ready to go in the reverse direction: to recognize when someone meets the image we have of a potential employer, so we can steer the conversation accordingly.
Now let’s leave abstraction and get real.
Gee, wouldn’t be handy if we had a bank of stories ready to go so that we could grab the conversational reins and steer? Stories that let us introduce a more human element into the interaction and connect with the individual more sincerely—a way to let the person know our strengths and what we want, without being annoyingly direct about it? And you know what else would be useful, is a clear idea of the company this person works for, the organization’s story, and even who this person is if they have an accessible online persona. These things would really shorten the learning curve, too, wouldn’t it.
Oh, wait—we *do* have all that! (See how everything we’re doing builds on itself? )
No to go back to the original question: who are we trying to meet? It’s different for each of us, but all of us need to be ready for a curve ball. It may turn out that the person we thought was the captain of our bowling team turns out to be our employer. We just never know.
How do we pull all this together? How do we prepare to be “always searching” even with our social networks? Here are some ideas, using the Quality Event framework:
By the end of the week, learn something new about five people—these could be new people who you meet at the coffee shop, or acquaintances who you haven’t connected with. Use one of the stories you developed yesterday as a wedge to open up a conversation.
After the interactions, note: was the story successful? What did you learn about the person? How could you help the person? How might they help you? The answer to these last two questions might be, “They can’t” or “I don’t know.” Those are fine responses. The idea here is simply to practice getting out there!
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