Job searching? Activate Your Network

Have you ever had someone ask you to keep your eyes and ears open for any employment opportunity they would be qualified for? If you have, how did you – or how are you – going about keeping them in mind as you go about your day? At this moment I have six such people in my circle who have made such a request to me, and more importantly six who I have made that commitment to.

Now I know that as I’m going about my day, I’m not solely responsible for finding any one of the six their next job or career move. I am just one of presumably several people who are keeping our collective ears and eyes open for these people. Well I hope I’m not the only one at any rate!

I think that’s the key actually; spreading the word among your contacts that you’re looking for opportunities and by alerting all your connections, you hope that you get one or more alerts regarding job opportunities you could apply to. By mobilizing such a group of people, you increase the odds of becoming aware of positions you might otherwise be ignorant of. That part of the process makes complete sense and is in the control of the job seeker.

However, as I say in the opening lines of this piece, how do you and I; the ones asked to keep the job seeker in mind, actually go about our days with them in mind so we don’t overlook them when we hear of an opportunity? I know for me personally, it’s always helpful to have in my hands a copy of the person’s updated resume. I want to check and see for myself what their education is, where they’ve worked and what they’ve accomplished. Having their resume within easy reach without having to request it later on can save me the time and trouble to request it, and can be the difference between getting the person notified before a deadline comes up or not.

So picture a folder with in my case, six resumes in it; one for each of the six people who have asked to keep them advised of any opportunities that come up. This folder is easily accessible for me and prevents me from mixing up the people with the employment goals of each.  Standing up thinly wedged between other documents on my desk, it should be relatively easy to locate and most importantly for those six people, a visual reminder so they don’t get forgotten.

Now while I’m very much a fan of technology, I think this is one instance where a physical file on a desk is preferable to an electronic file on a desktop screen. An icon or program that has to be accessed in order to remember the names of people and what it is they are looking for might have its advantages, but the physical 8 1/2 “ x 11” item on the top of the desk wins out for sheer attention-getting value. It’s hard to miss when you sit down and its right in front of you.

Now what’s really useful too is the briefest of notes, assigning a name with a job title. “Jim = Manufacturing Foreman, Omar = Caseworker, Jean = Office, Martin = Project Manager, Olivia = Marketing, Dante = Legal Assistant.” Having such a list makes for a simple and fast review and encourages me to keep these people in my thoughts as I go about my day.

But what of the people reaching out to me for help with their own job search? What responsibilities do they have once they take the step of requesting my aid? Is it enough that they ask for help and then sit back and wait for the help to come? I don’t think that’s enough personally.

First of all, anyone asking for help with their job search owes it to the people now looking on their behalf to inform their contacts that they have found employment in order for the helpers to stop looking. If for example I asked for your help in my job search and after two months of looking daily for jobs for me you contacted me with an opportunity, you’d probably feel that I used you only for my own gains if I said, “Oh it’s okay, I found a job a month ago.” I know if that were me on the receiving end, I’d think long and hard about keeping my eyes and ears open a second time for such a person.

One thing a job seeker also has to do is keep their contacts appraised of any changes in their direction. If you choose a different career, return to school, expand or restrict your job search, you owe it to those looking on your behalf to share that information. You may not have a job, but you do have the responsibility to keep your network advised of what’s going on with your job search so your connections can alter their behaviour accordingly.

Finally, you owe it to both yourself and your connections to build into your job search some networking time. Call up your contacts or fire off an email that extends some thanks and screams, “Don’t forget about me please.” You can send along any updated resume and a short note of thanks every so often will be greatly appreciated.


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