Photo: Åsmund Bø
There was an interesting piece on CNN Money recently, which gave a few interesting pieces of advice to struggling job seekers. I was struck by how basic the columnist’s advice was – and I don’t mean that as a criticism. People are still not learning or practicing the most basic skills when it comes to meeting people and finding a job.
Don’t “lead with your need”
If I had to pick, I’d say this is the most common networking mistake. It sure is in my experience and, yes, I’ve been guilty too. Looking for a job by asking people for a job is simply wrong – it will get you nowhere and it will burn networking bridges for the future. You should definitely reach out to your connections, but play it cool. If you call someone you haven’t spoken to in a few years and tell them, “Hey, I’m really lonely and need a date – you know of anyone?” they’re going to think you’re super desperate and they won’t help you. No one wants to associate with desperate people, let alone risk their good name by vouching for them.
When reaching out to old or cold contacts, ask them to reconnect. Say you’d like to catch up and take them to lunch. Once you’re into lunch you can casually mention that you’re looking for work or are in between jobs. Better still, if you noticed that someone in their network works at the company you want or is in charge of hiring somewhere else, ask if they would mind putting you in touch. Most people love connecting friends, but no one wants to set their friend up with the desperate guy.
Be interesting for crying out loud!
I recently had lunch with my friend who’s an HR director. We were exchanging stories about bad application stories (though nothing this bad came up) and she’d just witnessed a no-brainer mistake. Candidate was doing pretty well during interviews and, as they were wrapping up, they hiring staff asked the candidate if she had any questions. “No.” They even said to her, “Really, nothing? No questions at all?” Nope.
What the hell? This is extremely basic, yet people continue to screw it up. Show you are interested, show you can think critically, show that you’re knowledgeable about the company you want to work for – ask some damned questions! This person killed her chances at the job because she didn’t prepare for the most basic interview. Inexcusable.
Networking and job searching is not about getting something for yourself. If that’s your focus, the few “wins” you get will be very superficial. Instead you need to build relationships, not just networks. Play it cool with your contacts, and ask about specific opportunities when the time is right. And if they do get you an interview, take the time to prepare at least five questions for the interview. It will show you’ve considered the job carefully and aren’t wasting the interviewer’s time.
Be mindful of these basic two points and watch your contacts and opportunities grow.