Even if you’re a sociable, gregarious, people-loving person, the “networking” phone call can be a dreaded task in the job search. You feel like you’re imposing, and it feels awkward to ring up your friends, former colleagues, and college buddies to ask for a favor from such a helpless position.
So here’s how to stop worrying and learn to love the networking call.
The tip, which I picked up from my friend John Lucht, is this:
“Don’t ask for a job, ask for a reference.”
Asking someone to be a reference makes networking a positive experience for both of you.
You see, everybody hates to say “no” to a request from somebody they know. When you call your contacts and ask if they know of any jobs out there, you’re putting them in the position where they have to say “no” to you.
After all, they’re busy with their own lives and aren’t paying a lot of attention to job openings right now.
So asking for job information or job leads makes networking uncomfortable for both of you.
To make it easy for them to say “yes”, you need to ask them something that is easy to say “yes” to…
When you call your old colleague or contact, ask them if — when the time is right in your job search — it would be possible to use them as a reference.
This approach has three positives in its favor: it doesn’t cost them anything to say “yes” to that request, it’s an easy way for them to feel like they are being helpful, and it makes the call much more comfortable for both of you.
And now that you’ve turned the networking call from a negative conversation to a positive one, both you and your contact will feel better about the interaction.
That’s important, because positive interactions make your contacts more inclined to help you. They may even feel a little bit honored that you think highly enough of their opinion to ask them to be a reference.
So now, as they go about their business, they’ll not be screening your calls to avoid further awkward interactions, but instead they’ll be a little bit more inclined to keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities that might make sense for you.
If they overhear something at the club, if their cousin mentions a corporate expansion, if there’s some trade rag gossip on positions opening up, they’re much more likely to want to reach out to let you know that there might be an opportunity for you.
So my best advice, handed down to me from an expert with forty years of recruiting experience, is this: don’t ask for a job, ask for a reference.
And you may never dread a networking call again.
Have a great week in the search.
I’ll be rooting for you!
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