Two Strange Networking Methods

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: May 11, 2009 - 9:32 AM

The current job market could most charitably be described as rotten.

Employers and job seekers alike are scared. They're uncertain of the future and worried about what to do next.

You, too?

If so, here's an idea: Why not try something different in your job search?

Specifically, why not try the following two counter-intuitive ways to find a job by putting a new twist on old networking ideas ...

1) Network by Disqualifying People
Here's a referral tactic I just learned from a smart, successful financial services professional who ranks in the top 5% of his industry in the UK -- so pay attention to this technique, which is easily adaptable to your job search.

My colleague, whom we'll call Steve, gets referrals from busy, affluent clients by asking them who might be the WRONG person to call. Let me explain …

Before having a referral meeting, Steve does his homework. He writes up a list of 10-20 people he thinks his client may know. Then he asks, "I'm thinking of contacting the people on this list with information about my services. Is there anyone on this list I should avoid? What do you think?"

This unexpected tactic -- everyone expects to be asked to provide leads, not disqualify them -- disarms people and gets them talking. "Well, this guy is a jerk and this guy is wrong for you. But you forgot to include Bill Smith and Sue Jones. And I know Frank Williams really well -- call him and tell him I referred you," etc.

Steve says this referral script works like a charm to generate new business, even in the current recession.

Now. How to adapt this idea to your job search?

Before meeting a networking contact, do your homework. Find out names of people you know they know, along with people they might know. When you meet your contact, ask: "I'm planning on contacting these people for information about the companies they work for. Is there anyone on this list I should avoid? What do you think?"

Then, go down the list of people one name at a time --

You: "What do you think of Sally Smith at ABC, Inc."?

Networking contact: "She's a good person to talk to."

You: "How about Cindy Brown and Amalgamated International?"

Networking contact: "I don't know her."

You: "Oh, really? Who do you know who works at Amalgamated?"

Networking contact: "Nobody."

You: "How about one of their vendors, like XYZ, or clients, like Z Company?"

Networking contact: "Well, I know Joe Peterson at Z Company -- you can call him and mention my name. He should be able to reach Cindy."

And so on, down your list of 10-20 names, until you have qualified and expanded it. You will soon have a valuable collection of names at almost any company you want to work for. And it starts when you ask people this counter-intuitive networking question, adapted from the financial services industry: "Is there anyone on this list I should avoid?"

2) Stop Networking and Start Being Useful
Here's another contrarian networking idea: Stop thinking about networking and start trying to be useful to other people. That's the advice of Dan Sullivan, founder of The Strategic Coach, a focusing program for entrepreneurs worldwide.

According to Sullivan, if you can bring confidence and clarity to people in your network by researching their needs and then offering something useful -- in the form of product news, information about their customers, contacts, expertise, etc. -- people will make time to talk to you. Because you will be seen as an oasis in today's desert of bad economic news.

And, according to my experience counseling job seekers since 1996, people who make time to talk to you today will remember you with favor the next time potential job leads cross their desk.

One thing is certain: If you keep doing what you’ve been doing in your job search, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. And if you’re not getting calls from employers, why not try these “strange” networking methods for just one week and see where they lead you?

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

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