An old friend got in touch recently to ask about some people in my contacts list on one of my social networks. She was digging through other friends lists as well in an effort to find familiar names from our common past. Her interest, as it turns out, was to make a late stage career change, wanting to return to an industry where she made many contributions and had really enjoyed herself and the work. Through cross referencing of information gathered from multiple connections, she was able to identify some movers and shakers in her target area that she believed might be the key she needed for returning to her roots.
But the search wasn’t easy, and not without disappointment. Our intrepid career changer had to go back through her own history to unearth names of people she knew a long time ago, and hadn’t been in touch with for many years. She hoped they would remember her and the fine work she did. But because of all the time that had passed, she had to dig deep to locate those she knew, and those who witnessed and recalled her skills. Many were no longer working for the same companies, and just as many were no longer in the same field. Making the search harder was the discovery that some she had lost track of, and believed might be helpful, had passed away.
After some extensive research, all that digging paid off. My friend found the names of two people at the same company, who were in positions that control the functions she wants to perform – the ultimate hiring decision makers. I’m told it was a “lot of work and many hours to find, ID and cross match all the information,” and then she had to verify its accuracy and up-to-date-ness. To do this she matched the contacts on other friends’ social networks and started calling her best connections to see who could arrange introductions to the people she had identified. (We all know that in online networking – professional or social – not all of one’s contacts are truly close personal friends, and not everyone feels comfortable making introductions.) In calling around to her connections, she felt that at the very least it was good exercise in getting up to date with people she hadn’t spoken to in a while.
My friend made sure her contacts were aware of her goals and the functions she most wanted to perform so when introductions were suggested, the referrals heard only the most relevant details of her professional activities that could be passed along. This made her more confident in what her objective would learn/hear about her.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you go about digging through the contacts of the people you know:
Let your best contacts know that you are looking for work, that you want to troll their online contacts list, and your objective!
Ask your contacts if they will provide a legitimate and appropriate introduction if you do identify one of their associates whom you’d like to meet.
Tell your contacts that you want to have a personal meeting with the person you have identified, so they can effectively communicate your desire to meet face-to-face.
If you have close personal contacts with folks who do not show their online networking contacts, ASK them who they know.
In fact, don’t forget to ask everyone you know the two most important networking questions:
Do you know someone?
Do you know someone who knows someone?
Remember that it’s not always a good idea to insinuate yourself on a total stranger without an introduction. Just because you know someone in common doesn’t always clear the way for self-introduction. Be circumspect.
And it probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Be respectful of your contacts, and their connections.
Look, I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of the old axiom “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I prefer to see people judged on the quality of who they are and the work they can perform, not by the names on their contacts list. But, my feelings aside, who you know is very important when you are looking to advance your career, in the same field or when seeking an early or late-stage career change. Who you know does matter! Regularly reaching out to your own contacts, and mining your networks’ connections can reap positive rewards, so don’t forget to dig deeper!
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