Let’s agree in theory that most people like to help others. Given the opportunity and the wherewithal they will, and why? … Because it feels good! That’s human nature. Unfortunately, in some situations, like networking, we don’t know how to help.
Too often we leave it up to others to figure out how they can help and when they can’t, they experience disappointment – they offered but couldn’t deliver! It’s a difficult position for both networking contacts and job searchers. Time and again job searchers put their networking contacts in a position where they feel all they can do is ‘hold on to your resume and keep their eyes and ears open; that if something comes up they’ll give you a call’ … it’s too reactionary … What happens if nothing surfaces? Having to say “I cannot help you” is upsetting and people will avoid it altogether. This can also occur with friends and relatives. If for example your job search isn’t developing for you and over and again you have nothing in the way of progress to report, even they may avoid contact with you. Face it – it’s discouraging for friends to hear you’re not getting anywhere. A few weeks or months of the same old, same old, GETS old, and they too may respond less and less to your calls.
This all sounds very gloomy but … there is a simple fix. So simple that is can be explained in a single sentence: Don’t ask “if” they can help, tell them “how”. That’s all it is! Don’t ask them to figure out how to job search for you; they probably know less about it than you. Instead, tell the “how”.
Here are some practical ideas to help get your network started on helping you and keeping them engaged:
1. Have a clear objective for your conversation and your job search. Be ready for the question, ‘what are you looking to do?’ It can stupefy the unsuspecting person forcing a response that is weak or irrelevant and with new contacts, even fatal.
5. Find out if they have done business with search, recruitment agencies, career consultants…and if they have personal contacts there to whom they can refer you.
6. Ask if they are involved in any activities where they can help you meet people, strike up a connection and build a relationship, i.e. trade organizations, volunteerism, continuing education, or even social portholes such as a virtual book club.
7. Find out it they have recently attended any conferences, workshops or seminars in your target area.
8. Prepare a list of 10 to 20 target companies: Are they familiar with any companies and if so, do they have any contacts there? Do they know people who may have contacts there? What other companies come to mind that they think should be added to your list?
9. Provide a list of professions that consist of the people and roles related to your target market (i.e. Accountants, Sales Reps, Journalists, Consultants, etc) that could trigger other connections they have.
10. Lastly, provide immediate feedback. Let them know how they are doing. You will be surprised how far a little affirmation and approval thrown their way will go you.
This is a great way to approach meetings. You have a clear objective and a solid agenda making it easier for others to help you.
If you manage you network contacts like business relationships or strategic partnerships, you are likely to discover far more helpful, energetic and interesting people than you thought your contacts to be. All it takes is a little “direction”. Again, most people like to help others, they just don't always know how. Tell them how and with that, you can continue to tap your network as often as you like, because you make it easy for them to help!
Hope this helps!