Networking from the opposite direction

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: July 18, 2011 - 8:31 AM

Here is a Guerrilla Job Search maxim to live by: When in doubt, do the opposite.

Here's a Guerrilla Job Search maxim to live by: When in doubt, do the opposite.

Think about it: If most job hunters are struggling to find work, why do what most job hunters are doing?

Take email, for example. If most job seekers email their resumes to employers … and get no reply, why not try the opposite? The opposite of email could be in-person delivery, fax, or U.S. Mail, to name but three possibilities.

Here's another example: If most job seekers apply only for advertised jobs and flounder for months, why not go after unadvertised jobs? And the best way to do that is what I call, networking from the opposite direction.

Huh? What happened to plain old networking?

Again, think: If you network like everybody else is doing, you'll get results like everybody else is getting.

Not good.

So let's dispense with standard networking and look at three ways you can make connections more effectively at employers -- and get hired faster -- by networking from the opposite direction …

1) Don't Ask for a Job
Instead, try asking for advice. This is especially true when networking with people you already have a valuable connection with, your fellow alumni.

"Too many out-of-work university alumni are desperate. This is understandable. But desperation can work against you," says Dr. Barry Miller, Career Services Director at Pace University.

Asking people you barely know for job leads will only drive them away. You're stampeding a sensitive topic without first laying the groundwork, like walking into a singles bar and shouting, "Hey, who wants to marry me?"

There is a better way.

"If you meet someone at a networking event, don't dominate their time with your sad story -- they will only try to get away from you. Ask for their card and contact them later, to set up a networking meeting," advises Miller.

Your goal in connecting with someone is to schedule an informational interview.

Tip: In this economy, almost every employed person has been asked for an informational interview -- when you and they both know you that what you want is a job.

So never say "informational interview." Instead, ask to interview someone for an industry white paper, freelance article, or blog posting that you're writing. You have a better chance of flying under the radar -- and getting that informational interview by another name.

2) Help Others to Help Yourself
Why do most folks hate networking, anyway?

Perhaps because they feel like door-to-door salesmen, canvassing their neighborhoods and Outlook contacts, asking -- literally or figuratively -- "Can you help me find a job?"

Not surprisingly, this approach falls flat. Most people can't or won't help you.

But what if you tried the opposite?

In "Never Eat Alone," author Keith Ferrazzi suggests that real networking is about finding ways to make others successful. With that in mind, you can approach people with this question: "How can I help you?" Big difference.

Do you think you might start more conversations, make more connections, and build a valuable reputation by giving to others before asking to receive? I do.

Think of the most-connected person you know, someone who seems to know everyone else. After talking to that person, how do you usually feel, happy or exploited?

Now, ask yourself this question after your next networking conversation: Is the person I just spoke to happy to have met me? If so, you likely said something to help them, which makes them more likely to remember you with favor ... and help in your job search.

3) Play Harder to Get
Here's a final idea: If the status on your social networking profile (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn) says you're looking for a job, change it to something like, "I am looking to meet people who work in financial services," according to Dr. Barry Miller.

Why? Shouldn't you be telling the whole world that you're looking for work?

It depends. If that approach has produced job leads from your online networks, great. Keep at it.

Otherwise, consider playing harder to get. It may make you look less desperate and more attractive. After all, it's human nature to want what you can't have.

You now have three ways to network from the opposite direction. Instead of asking for jobs -- like everyone else -- try asking for information, giving before you receive, and playing harder to get.

Whatever you decide, be sure to record your results over the next 21 days. Because you can't improve what you don't measure. If it works, do more of it. If not, change or stop doing it.

Now, go out and make your own luck!

Kevin Donlin is contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0." Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 20,000 people. For a free Guerrilla Job Search audio CD, visit MyNewJobHunt.com.

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