The Art of Finding Work: When Approached With the Right Mindset, Networking Pays Off

The Art of Finding Work: When Approached With the Right Mindset, Networking Pays Off
The Art of Finding Work: When Approached With the Right Mindset, Networking Pays Off

Right now, there are job opportunities all around you, with a catch: they’re attached to people. Hence, what you already know, networking is the most effective strategy for finding a job.

If you still need convincing that networking is essential to landing a job, I recommend reading Why Networking is More Important than Ever Before by Leslie Stevens-Huffman, in which he states, “Data shows that 87 percent to 92 percent of jobs are filled through introductions or referrals from your network.” 

The more you network, the further ahead you’ll be of the 99% of job seekers you’re competing against. Serious job seekers understand that the goal isn’t to apply to more jobs but to talk to more people.

Job seekers complaining that the hiring system—as if a universal hiring methodology exists—is broken are those who still believe they can apply online, along with hundreds if not thousands of other candidates, many just as qualified, if not more, and then wait to hear from a stranger, the hiring manager. This strategy, used by most job seekers, only offers a fractional chance of landing an interview, explaining why most job seekers are frustrated.

I often hear from jobseekers that networking feels manipulative. The entire business world, especially its drivers of consumption—without consumption, there’s no business—marketing and sales depend on manipulation. “Worrying” about appearing manipulative makes me wonder if the person has a solid foundation of ethical behaviour or just picks and chooses ethical principles to justify “why they don’t.” 

Strangers owe you nothing and are likely focused on keeping their head above water. For your networking activities to be effective, you must approach people with curiosity, empathy, and, above all, a desire to add value. Don’t feel entitled to someone’s time. Before approaching someone you want to build a professional relationship with, ask yourself: “How can I help this person? What does the person have to gain by connecting with me?”

  • Your market intelligence?
  • Your vendor/supplier relationships?
  • Your industry expertise?
  • Your skills?
  • Your measurable track record of achieving results? 

Asking yourself, “What does [stranger] have to gain by knowing me?” before approaching [stranger] is a subtle but powerful shift in perspective. Focus first on understanding the other person’s needs and challenges, which may require some research, as opposed to solely pursuing your own agenda. What issues are they grappling with in their work or business? How might your unique skills, knowledge, or connections assist them?

Everybody has their own agenda. If you can’t clearly show the person you’re reaching out to how you can assist them with their agenda, why should they help you? Would you help a stranger with their job search if they didn’t, in some way, help with your agenda?

When you reach out to strangers with an “I want something from you” attitude, as most people do, expect resistance and being ghosted. Nobody wants to help someone who’s only interested in their own agenda. On the other hand, when you take a consultative approach, probing into challenges, chatting through problems, offering ideas and solutions, and finding commonalities, you’re much more likely (no guarantee) to build meaningful connections.

From what I’m experiencing, blame it on social media, hiding behind our smartphone, and the recent common limiting belief of being an introvert; we’ve lost the ability to cultivate relationships, which requires focusing on the other person’s wants and needs while putting ours on the back burner. Don’t be one of the ‘What the f*ck do you want?’ people. When you reach out, lead by offering something of value.

Whether professional or personal, there are three what I call human principles to beginning and maintaining a relationship:

  1. People are attracted to those who try to start a conversation with them. (Conversation starters attract people.)
  2. A desire to help makes you memorable and interesting.
  3. Showing interest in someone is a massive gesture.

An analogy that illustrates the above is offering to help an elderly person carry their groceries to their car. While walking to their car and placing their groceries in the trunk, you make small talk and find out their son is the VP of finance at a multi-national biomedical company. You’re a certified accountant searching for your next job. As you place the last bag of groceries in the truck, you ask if they would mind introducing you to their son.

I know. You wish networking were as easy as this. Undeniably, networking can be challenging, but scenarios like this analogy happen every day. I’ve experienced this more than once. Offering value before asking for value is far more effective than reaching out to cold. 

Worth mentioning is a pet peeve of mine that’s a recipe for being ghosted: People who haven’t spoken to me in years seeking my help. Maintaining your current professional relationships can’t be overstated. Reaching out only when you need something is borderline insulting.

The most successful networkers approach networking not as a necessary evil but as an opportunity to forge genuine, mutually beneficial connections. Habitually approaching people with curiosity, empathy, and a generous heart will make networking an enjoyable and rewarding experience. 

About Nick Kossovan 46 Articles
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

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