The Art of Working & Reworking Your Network

DFN: Good advice on the do’s and don’ts of networking. Couple of things to keep in mind, 1.) Focus on what you can do for people in your network 2.) Don’t ask for / hint for a job.

December 11, 2009, 12:59 PM ET
Advice: The Art of Working and Reworking Your Network
By Alina Dizik

Revisiting your network for more help on landing a job can be uncomfortable, especially if they’ve already tried to help. But with the search taking longer, it’s important to continue to reconnect with contacts — even if they didn’t succeed in helping you the first time. To get past the unease of asking for help, John Crant, career expert and founder of suggests showing the person how you can still be valuable as a job seeker. Make sure to ease into a pleasant conversation, because “there is always an ego component to networking as everyone secretly, if not overtly, wishes to be the center of attention,” says Mr. Crant.

Why is it so difficult for people to turn to network contacts for help on the second or third time?
The simple answer is guilt. We all have that nagging voice in our heads that our call is not of interest, and is really a nuisance, to those that we may call more than once asking for help. We may also be thinking about the many other calls that these individuals may be getting, and visualize our call as if it’s the same as all the rest. It’s this negative-reinforcement that can block our ability to network effectively. As job seekers, we often fall into the trap of thinking only about how the call may be valuable to us, rather than thinking of a good networking call as a value for both individuals. Compounding our anxiety may be the fact that the first time around, we may have neglected to lay the proper foundation for our follow up networking calls.

Here, Mr. Crant shares advice on how job seekers can continue to work with their network:

Does the outcome of the first interaction play into it?
It’s not the outcome of the first call as much as it’s whether we worked to develop a mutually beneficial networking relationship from the start. Remember, these calls should be valuable to both parties. What do you have to offer, and how can you be a valuable contact for them in their careers? Even if they are in a senior position to yours, you can still help them with valuable contacts in the industry.

What are some common mistakes people make when asking the same people for help?
Not showing a true interest in the other individual. In today’s job market, most people return to their network without the ‘value-add’ for their contact. Calling an individual back only to communicate that you are still out there and looking [produces anxiety and guilt] on the other end too, and that’s no way to create the warm chemistry needed for effective networking. So, be sure to call them back with something for or about them: an interesting, related news article about their field or their company, or even something that may be of personal interest.

What should a job seeker leave on a voicemail or write in an email when trying to reconnect?
No phone messages with “I’m just following up.” If you are thinking about what your messages are communicating on the other end, this one just says, “I’m checking to see if you did anything for me.” That’s a chemistry killer. Instead, leave your message about whatever you have zeroed in upon that is about them. Don’t forget that your tempo, tone and attitude on the call or message makes a significant difference in whether people engage and open up, or close and shut down.

Is it beneficial to go back to the same people who have offered help?
The best networking contacts are the ones that you develop into close personal confidants. While not every good contact will develop into [a friend], by going back with value to your contact with a frequency, it will set a good tone for the relationship and result in better discussions.

Besides landing a job, how can these contacts be useful?
They could [provide] information [on] common backgrounds that [are hired more frequently], or even information on how the hiring process really works [at a given firm]. Information about the organization [structure] for this employer could be valuable to the job seeker, all available right there in conversation–if you are listening for it. And let’s not forget that you are networking with another individual from your industry, so be ready to pick their brains for new ideas that you may not have thought about yet.

Readers, do you have trouble repeatedly reaching out to your network? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


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