Networking Help From Your Friends

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN
  • Updated: October 27, 2008 - 8:47 AM

Here’s a brilliant quote from a brilliant scientist, Linus Pauling: “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” And here’s a rough corollary for your job search: The best way to find a good job is to have lots of networking conversations.

Kevin Donlin

Photo: Star Tribune Sales and Marketing, StarTribune.com

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In other words, the more people you talk to, the faster you’ll get hired.

That’s not an opinion. It’s what I’ve observed after helping thousands of people find jobs since 1996. You might even call it scientific evidence.

To prove my theory, that more conversations produce more job leads, I performed an experiment on myself.

Here’s the experiment: I called up two of my best-connected friends -- people who know lots of other people -- and asked them how they found their last three jobs.

What did they say?

1) Terry from Royal Oak, Mich.
“How did I find my last three jobs? Let’s see. The job I have now at an online retailer, I found out about from an employment web site,” he said.

“For my last job, I was hired after networking internally with a vice president at the Fortune 500 company where I was working. I ended up being relocated from Minneapolis to Memphis.

“And before that, I was hired for a new position, again, after networking internally. That time it was with a director.”

Summary: Terry’s current job was found through an online posting. The previous two came from networking where he worked -- they were internal moves.

2) Jennifer from Minneapolis, Minn.
“Right now, I’m a freelancer in public relations. The projects I get are generally from referrals from past clients where I used to work full-time,” she said.

“I got my last position by following a former co-worker to another company where she had been hired. She referred me in over there.

“Two jobs ago, I has hired after getting a directory of every ad agency in Minneapolis (this was in the 1990s), mailing each of them a resume, and then calling every one to follow up.”

Summary: Most of Jennifer’s projects in her freelance position now, and the last full-time job she had, came through referrals (a more useful, accurate term than networking, by the way). Two jobs ago, she was hired after contacting employers directly and following up by phone -- the human touch. How quaint. How pre-Facebook. And how effective.

Now. These stories can help you find a job faster in two ways.

First, I’ve just given you an excuse to call the most-connected people you know and start a conversation. All you have to do is pick up the phone and ask them how they found their last three jobs. Do you think you might get one referral to a potential employer by calling two successful friends, as I did? How about five friends?

Second, you’re going to gain new insights into job hunting that can re-energize your search. Example: I had forgotten about the power of internal networking until talking to Terry. If I were working now, I would first exhaust all internal options before looking outside for jobs; that’s obvious. But what about my friends at other companies? I would ask them to talk to their managers about openings that might suit me, because employee referrals count for a lot. And Terry helped me remember all that.

The recurring theme throughout this experiment can be summed up in one word: referrals.

By not burning bridges after leaving school or taking a new job, and by maintaining relationships with friends, you can have more conversations with more people who can point you to more job openings.

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Kevin Donlin