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BOB LANKARD: Building a solid network

by on February 09, 2014 1:49 AM

Networking can provide more than just information on available jobs. It is much broader than that. For example:

• A job seeker wanting career information can ask an insider what the demand is for an environmental attorney. Another job seeker thinking she would like to become a nurse may ask an experienced nurse about her daily routine. This is called informational interviewing.

• Suppose a job seeker wants to work for XYZ industry but doesn’t know where to start. He could ask a current worker who the best person would be to find out about jobs in the warehouse.

• A job seeker scheduled for an interview could ask what to expect in an interview.

• Networking can give the job seeker information about openings. For example: “Where can I apply in Las Vegas for a job as a cost accountant? “

Some job seekers have such a narrow view of networking that it is dismissed in favor of newspaper classifieds, job service listings and an Internet job search. They see networking as a matter of pull, hitting up influential people and using other people. I call them mini-networkers. Maxi networkers see it as developing relationships, mutual support, sharing ideas and advice.

A network is not a static thing, such as 20 names and out. Each person you talk to knows a whole group of different people than you. Fred may be a bust as far as any job leads, but he knows Bob, who is a wealth of information about a certain industry. A job seeker should be adding names to the network list every day. One way the job seeker can keep a network list growing is to ask, “Can you think of anyone else who could help me find a Web page design job?”

Networking will not work for a job seeker who after talking to five people says, “this doesn’t work” and gives up.

These are the job seekers who pin all their hopes on one effort.

Networking with a person is not a one-shot process. Job seekers need to build a relationship with the networking contact. This means coming back to the person and discussing what you have learned. You may even have information to give them.

John, who was my adviser at college, pointed me in the direction of employment counseling. After talking with the individuals he suggested, I went back to him with what I learned. He appreciated getting information that was new to him and made further suggestions about my job-search process.

The job seeker will get information from the contact but in the continual process will be able to provide information to the contact. Ellen Swaney, in “The Employment Paper” of Pittsburgh, called this mutual exchange a “win-win networking experience.”

A “win-win networker” and my “maxi networker” raise networking to a new level because it is an ongoing, interactive, dynamic concept.



Bob Lankard, a retired employment specialist at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry's Indiana Job Center, is a job-search columnist for the Indiana Gazette. Read his columns on Sundays.
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