Archive for May, 2006

Being a Nurtured Ally

Monday, May 29th, 2006

When I was doing public service work, I noticed that the most powerful members of the community were those who helped others get employment. They made friends of the employer and of the job seeker by being receptive and thoughtful about creating a match. They also felt good about helping. In that spirit, several years ago I wrote an article, Networking Quid Pro Quo which details the benefits to the recipient of networking. Please download it, gratis.
It certainly is annoying to be approached by an unfocused job seeker, a contact or stranger with a (not so) hidden agenda, or people who think of you as their new best friend when they don’t know you or, worse, have blown you off in the past. However, if you transcend these awkward advances and try to be of service, you will most likely make an ally for life.

Some tips for building an ally out of a request:

1. Welcome the call by being friendly and interested. You don’t have to know of or have a job to offer to be of service. Engage in a dialogue about the caller’s interests, needs, goals, and background.

2. Manage expectations by shifting the conversation to something you can realistically do for the individual, such as advise on their resume, help them consider alternative career paths, give them information about an industry or companies, serve as a sounding board as they begin to unearth opportunities.

3. Resist the temptation to offer to “pass” the caller’s resume around or keep it in case you “hear of something” because it raises expectations that you will actually become their (unpaid) headhunter and may place you in a position of repeat calls asking you if you have heard of a job. This is irritating for you and hurtful to the job seeker.

4. Help callers to be focused and productive by giving honest feedback on their self-presentation or their marketing plan, and help them to expand their ideas with your perspectives on the market or their field of interest.

5. If asked for additional contacts, be thoughtful and strategic about referrals. Offer names of people who you really think will add to the job seekers’ ability to move their job search along. It is always helpful to provide some background about the referral which helps job seekers to be effective. Personally setting up the connection keeps you in the loop and gives you an opportunity to be in touch with your contacts, as well.

As always, I am interested in your own thoughts and tips,


P.S. As an update on those quoted in the article:

Marianne Ruggiero now has a thriving consulting practice, Optima Careers
Alan Pickman works for Lee Hecht Harrison
Fredie Gamble is now traveling the world

Enduring Allies

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

Networking is not working! It is painful for the majority of networkers and annoying for a large number of recipients. After all, what we call “networking” is a manufactured process based on a tradition in which “old boys” established a mutually beneficial support system (or network of peers, mentors and sponsors) founded on relationship, reputation and reciprocity. Now that we have turned the noun into a verb, many networkers have turned what was once a fulfilling way of living into just one more “should” that is neither appreciated, comfortable nor desired. Many feel compelled to dip in and out of the networking command performance based on current work stability, satisfaction, and situations. We network when we need to, when we have to, when we should. This episodic effort can look like this:

An email arrives in your in-box from a long-ago acquaintance who never really established a relationship with you and whom you remember did not return your last three phone calls, blew you off for lunch, never did business with you. The email is accompanied by an attached (very long and unedited/unfocused) resume. The body of the email states that the writer is in the process of “putting a few feelers” out and, based on a mutual “friend’s” suggestion, is writing to you for advice and information. The email ends with “I look forward to speaking with you”. Have you written one of these lately? Are you a recipient? This may be networking….but it certainly is not a way to build, nurture or expand relationships.

Recently I attended an ACPI conference where Larry Stybel presented a very thought provoking concept which can be found in his article, “Friend, Foe, Ally, Adversary….or Something Else?” He suggests that there are four types of relationships, two of which are constant (friends and enemies) and two which are conditional or changing (allies and adversaries). A friend would respond to any request from you because of the nature of the relationship (unconditional, long term, close, mutual, loyal, deeply connected) while an enemy would rebuff or even undermine you. Others (allies and adversaries) will be helpful or not depending on the level of their own self interest or benefit to them. Thus, if you are contacting friends, you can be assured that they will come through, no matter what, if it is within their power to help. However, since most of the people you know are conditional relationships, you need to recognize that these contacts need to be helped to help you and they need to see that responding to you will in some way help them (either now or in the future).
Based on Larry’s ideas, think about your relationships. Fears of rejection (the main objection to networking) disappear when you think of investing in your allies through give and take, ongoing contact, reciprocity. Make a habit of staying in touch. Show interest and curiosity about your field, a desire to inform, nurture and expand relationships based on mutual benefit. If you are reconnecting with people who have been out of touch, first work on establishing a connection through offering them something or, at least, giving them a reason or purpose to be interested in you.

Build them before you expect them to come to your aid! Manage your expectations to match the realities of the relationships. Be considerate of your contacts. Prepare well for your outreach. If you are in a job change process, scrap the open-ended approach: be targeted, specific and realistic. Before you make the call or write that note/e-mail, ask yourself:
1. What is your history with this individual? Where does s/he fit into your world?
2. What is the true nature of your relationship? A friend will do anything for you, no questions asked. Anyone else needs to be informed, nurtured, and developed into an ally.
3. What does your contact know about you? What does s/he need to know?
4. What, specifically, are your expectations about what your contact can/wants to do for you?
5. Knowing that the likelihood of your contact knowing/having a job for you right now is very low, what is the purpose of your reaching out to him/her?
6. How do you wish to be thought of? Do you want sympathy or support?
7. Be clear about what you are asking for: are you just starting and need focus, know what you are looking for and need to expand your information, exploring options, selecting among alternatives?
8. What can you offer your contact which will help him/her?

To learn more about these elements of relationship management, you are invited to download a complimentary Enduring Allies Tip Sheet