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Job Magician The Best Networking Starts
Years Before You Need a New Job
 

  • Networking beyond people who know you well is a difficult task – people can’t refer you enthusiastically to others in their network based solely on a recommendation from someone else.
  • The only way around this is to constantly work at building your network while you are comfortably employed.  The master networkers depend on contacts who were developed years before they call on them for help.
A job hunter told me recently that networking takes a year.  He’s been out of work for a year now, and a week ago, two networking contacts he developed when he first was out of work called to tell him about relevant job opportunities for him.

Yes, networking is still the number one way to find a job.  The classic idea behind it is the same one behind multi-level marketing. You know 50 people well, who know 50 other people well, who know another 50 people well, and as you get to the fourth level, you have access to six million people. 

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In the real world, however, networking isn’t very effective beyond the second level. You know Blake Bandiford well. Blake thinks highly of you, and can refer you enthusiastically to four people who would be good contacts for you. However, when you connect with these four contacts, getting them to connect you to their networks becomes much more difficult.

If they know of a clear job opening, it’s one thing. If they want to refer you for a networking meeting with one of their contacts, their referral has little power. They know and trust Blake, but they have only spent half an hour with you. They can only say that Blake Blandiford, chief technology officer at Whimzatz, spoke highly of you, and that they thought that you seemed like a pretty good person when they met you. The third level, the contacts of Blake's contacts, can't refer you enthusiastically to their contacts. They don't know Blake. They only know Blake's contacts, each of whom has spent only a half hour with you. 

Bear in mind that using my personal network, I am two connections removed from President Obama and one connection removed from former President George W. Bush. However, these connections are not strong enough - either on my end or on the other end - to get me hearings with either of these big wheels, and probably ten or twenty million people in this country can claim the same level of connectedness with this pair of politicians that I can. Effective networking occurs when you contact people who really know you well, and when they know the people they’re connecting you to really well. We all have been connected with thousands of people in some way, shape or form over the years. 

When someone calls me to network, I listen carefully to determine how well they know the person who referred them to me.  If it sounds like they really don't know her, I'll speak to them on the phone briefly and politely, but then move on.

One guy called me up, and told me that Rich Lich-Felt had given him my name.  He had mispronounced Rich Lichfeldt’s last name, which is pronounced Lick-Fell.  I immediately knew that he didn't know Rich at all, had probably spoken to him only briefly on the phone, and wasn't someone with whom I needed to spend a lot of time. Remember, people give their time to their friends’ networking contacts as a favor to their friends, not because of an altruistic desire to help you. Normally, they get no benefit from having a half-hour networking meeting with you.

The only way to be effective beyond the second level of networking is to expand your first level of networking contacts.You need to get Blake’s four contacts to know you and love you well before you need to call upon them. In fact, it works best when you have done favors for them long before you call on them for help.


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