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E-shots Web-exclusive: The Network

Paying it forward nearly always pays back. Put yourself out into the field and watch the results.

Using your network should have its primary focus on sharing information, improving your skills, and doing a better job at work. The wonderful side benefit is your ability to use this same network to get a job. The folks from Despair Inc. who sell very silly calendars have an inscription on their calendar that says, “A company that will go to the ends of the earth for its people will find it can hire them for about 10% of the cost of Americans.” While bitter, funny, and sad, it is unfortunately true. We do the best work in the world but in the relentless pursuit of short-term profits, corporations are reducing costs by looking for cheaper labor.

The outplacement people, the books, and the websites all say the same thing: Most jobs are never posted on any public forum. This is usually because taking out an ad in a trade journal costs in the neighborhood of thousands of dollars per insertion and the payback (while they only need one successful candidate) is slim. This is why the people who try to help you find a job encourage you to use the “network.”

Most people attempt to use and build their networks when or after they are no long working. This is the hardest time to build anything. Most people also make the initial mistake of either blindly sending out resumes or calling clients, customers, and friends asking for a job. Both approaches rarely work without a high investment of time and patience.

You find an interesting phenomenon in the book, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Someone tells something to somebody, who tells two or more people, who tell . . . and so forth. This takes one idea and expands it exponentially. While the book relates to the success of certain products, it translates well into the product being a job.

Your first best network is the professional societies. Join more than one if you can and join while you are employed so that you can have the largest network possible before (or if) you are downsized. Go to the meetings and, if you can afford it, go to the conferences. Better still, write and present a paper or become a member of a committee. These two actions put you in front of a wide selection of people who henceforth will know and recognize your name. Cultivate relationships with those in your industry or a related field. For example, the aerospace industry might not be a big consumer of plastics but it does use some plastic parts.

Do favors with no expectation of reciprocation. Your name will become more common and your integrity boosted. Become a source of information. I am a consultant. I don't know everything, but I do know a lot of people who can usually answer the question I was initially asked. I do more referrals than I get jobs. However, favors always have a future payback.

Doing favors may seem like selfless charity, but it's actually shameless marketing. If you are downsized, it's now your turn to use the network you've been building. Calling clients, customers, and others and setting up a lunch date (if distance allows) is a first step. Tell them you are available. Ask if they know anyone who might have an opening or, if they hear of one in the future, to contact you. Ask them also to spread the word within their network. Resumes or begging on the telephone for a job are an effort that will either succeed or fail one at a time. But asking folks to ask others puts the word out exponentially with far more requests and contacts than you could ever do individually.

If the odds of getting a job are one in a thousand, having your network-amplified by the networks of others-put your name out to 5000 or so potential employers will usually result in a job. Knowing people who know people who know people is how you get these thousands of exposures. When you get “the” job, you bring your entire network with you. Keep doing favors and being the fountain of information. It will enhance your credibility in your new position, help your employer solve problems faster, and ensure that you are ever better prepared to move on than those around you.

Consultant Bill Tobin of WJT Assoc. is a regular contributor to IMM. E-mail him at [email protected] to receive his monthly e-newsletter or visit www.wjtassociates.com.

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