When I speak about job search, I ask people, “Who has heard before that networking is the #1 way to find a job,” or I’ll ask people to “Fill in the blank… what is the #1 way to find a job?” Without fail most, if not all, of the attendees will correctly state the answer. (Networking is the #1 way to find a job.)
Then I ask them to tell me what they spend most of their time doing, and the answers don’t match up. So, do I just shake my finger at them? That’s not my style. I know that the solutions only reveal themselves when we really know the root cause. I seek to understand and empathize.
So, when I ask job seekers why they spend most of their transition time scouring job boards and filling out online applications when they know logically that the chances of getting a job that way are ~7%, I hear one of the following:
- Networking isn’t my thing
- I don’t have a network
- I’ve exhausted my network
#1 is not a truth; it’s a limiting belief either about yourself, about the expectation of receiving help, or about networking.
If someone sold you the idea that there is something dirty, immoral, inauthentic, or selfish about promoting yourself, networking will make you feel icky. You might have been taught from a young age to be seen and not heard, or that you need to yield to someone else’s needs or agenda. For that reason, you might prefer to let others get the glory while you stay meek and humble in the background.
Here’s the truth about #2, too – if you are on a first name basis with people outside your family, networking is your thing. It doesn’t have to look like making superficial connections with people you wouldn’t otherwise want to associate and using people. Even if you are an introvert, even if your network is small comparatively to other people, there is still a way to engage in meaningful connection with others and produce employment leads as a byproduct.
Here’s an opinion, albeit a much more empowering and relevant opinion – You were born with unique gifts and values, and you were gifted unique experiences and influences. Not only do you owe it to yourself to take every opportunity to expand your ability to use those gifts, but other people depend on this as well.
Whatever rules you were given that restricted your permission to own your own light and brilliance, I release you from those rules and give you full permission to love yourself unabashedly. We can only love others to the capacity we love ourselves.
The internet attributes this idea to Bréne Brown, but Matthew 22:39 states, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So many focus on the neighbor part, but if you read this a bit deeper, you’ll notice that you are supposed to love yourself, and love your neighbor as much.
Take it from someone who believed that I had to be meek and humble, but found myself being victimized by people who sought to abuse me to gain artificial power, even though they were supposed to be aligned to the same principals as me. I found that I don’t need to steal other people’s light, and in fact doing so dulls mine. But I must not let others steal my light, or there will be others living in darkness.
First, you have to learn to love and appreciate your own light, and then you have to let it shine. That’s a high-level look at networking at its finest. Consider it to be an activity that enables you to find those who can show you where your light is needed most.
Beyond your immediate circle of influence are many people who will “get” you, who will like you exactly the way you are, and who want to help you, because it makes them feel valuable.
#3 comes from people who are from one of two categories:
- You are a people pleaser, and you can’t stand the thought of someone not liking you or feeling annoyed by you. You, therefore, will only seek to be helpful and not a burden. You figure people will help if they want to and like you, so you’ll ask, but you’ll make it seem nonchalant. You’ll tell people, when they have time, if it’s not too much trouble, they can help you by letting you know about jobs open or by introducing you to people. Then, people do little to help you and you worry that you’ve been too forward, too demanding, or too annoying. You wonder if these people even really like you. The lack of action or response is painful and re-opens old wounds from when you wanted desperately to be accepted, maybe even popular. You are immediately discouraged and you give up, figuring that people don’t want to help and they don’t like you. You’ll assume you have better chances applying online cold to new people who are more likely to give you a chance.
- You literally spoke with anyone and everyone was willing to listen. You asked humbly for help. However, if you didn’t generate momentum by doing so, you most likely didn’t apply the best practices or properly train your network how to identify a good lead for you. You may have presented it too much as a favor to you, and didn’t get across exactly what value you have to offer. You may have only asked them to let you know if they hear about and opening for your title. You also may have thought that by being very general and broad about what you want, that your network would produce more leads.
It seems counter-intuitive, but you will produce more high-quality leads by being specific about the kinds of problems you solve, the kinds of initiatives that you make successful and the kinds of challenges you know well how to overcome, and then being clear about who would be experiencing these problems, challenges and initiatives and asking for introductions to these people.
Even beyond not adequately inspiring or educating your network, there are still other reasons why you might find efforts to network in order to land a new job fail, and I’ll cover more of them next week: Real Reasons Your Network Hasn’t Stepped Up To Help You
Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.
While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.
Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.
She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.