Posted by Brian McCullough
I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Modite. She has a great post up about real world networking. As I was reading her tips, I was reminded of my own experiences networking and the networking methods I’ve seen work for my clients over the years.
It occurs to me that most people think the secret to networking is how many people you know. And certainly, the more connections you have, the more effective your network can be for you.
But really, the key to effective networking is how many people owe you.
What I mean is this: the basic concept behind networking is to get people to do favors for you. In the case of job search networking, you’re hoping someone in your network of connections will do you a solid and help you get a job: introduce you to the right people; get your resume to the top of the pile; generally, advance your interests above and beyond the normal channels and bureaucracy.
You want people to want to do you a favor. And the quickest way to do that is to do favors for other people.
Networks are about favors. And so effective networking is not just about meeting people, it’s about doing favors for people and helping them out first… in the hope that they will help you out down the line.
Yes, it’s a very Godfather-ish, “one day I will ask you to perform a service for me,” kind of thing. But it’s how the world goes round.
You can know everyone under the sun. But knowing people is not the same as having people in your debt. If you’ve recently done something above and beyond for someone else, not only are they more likely to remember you because of a debt of gratitude, they will also be in the mindset for doing favors.
Politicians understand this intrinsically. I have a friend who is a city councilwoman. Every six weeks or so, she takes the time to walk door to door in her constituency just asking people if they have any problems she can help out with. She knows that getting that broken sidewalk fixed in front of someone’s house translates directly to votes. Having done something to improve your life is a pretty fair bargain for a vote.
I learned this lesson myself early on in my career when I was a bartender on New York’s Upper West Side. There was always a policy of favors extended widely and generously. We gave the bodega next door free ice from our machines when their refrigerators would break down. We assumed they’d do the same for us if our machinery broke down and the beer was getting warm. We gave the doormen and concierges from the hotel around the corner free drinks so they would steer their guests our way for entertainment purposes. We also let the local cops drink free so that if we had a disturbance on a Friday night, we knew we could count on their quick assistance.
So, basically, my tip is to take a look at your network, and start doing favors for people. It could be simple things:
- Help someone move.
- Take someone to the airport.
- Coach your friends’ kids’ soccer team.
But since you’re going to be looking for a job, you should never pass up an opportunity to help someone else find a job (or help them find a good person to hire). If you help someone find work, then you’ve created someone who will be actively on the lookout to return the favor in kind when your time comes:
- Help someone get hired at your current employer. Their spouse or friends might remember your generosity.
- Help an associate or colleague find a hire. Even if this person is a competitor. After all, when you are looking for a job, your professional contacts can be your best leads. And if you’ve been helpful to them find employees or find a job themselves, then they’ll be eager to respond in kind.