Most people think of networking as seeking out people who are relevant to your job search.
This should not be your only target population. Consider these four possible types of contacts:
- Relevant to Your Search AND Willing to help
- Relevant to Your Search AND Not Willing to help
- Not Relevant to Your Search AND Willing to help
- Not Relevant to Your Search AND Not Willing to help
Many focus on the first group; people able to help who are willing. The braver ones also tackle group two—people able to help who are unwilling—and try to win them over and make them willing. However, don’t forget the third group: people willing to help but who may not appear relevant to your search. These people may be more relevant than you initially think (e.g., they may know some relevant people).
Family and friends are common examples of Willing/Not Relevant people. But every group to which you have ever belonged is a potential source of Willing people:
- Schools: elementary, high school, college, graduate
- Race/ ethnic affinity group
- Social service group
- Professional organization
- Geographic community
- Hobbies (e.g., neighborhood chorus, sports team)
Remember that some groups are tight and willing to help even a stranger from the same group. I know a PhD in biology who got a venture capital job, not by networking with the VC crowd, but by networking with other PhDs in biology who transitioned outside that field.
- Best Buy Posts Lower Net Profit, Looks to Cut Jobs
These fellow PhDs knew what this candidate was going through and wanted to help one of their own. One of these PhDs had transitioned into banking. He had some VC contacts, and the rest is history. If this candidate had focused only on who was “relevant”, he may have missed this important contact.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart a career coaching firm for Gen Y professionals. Formerly in corporate recruiting and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citibank, Disney ABC, Oliver Wyman, Pfizer, and Time Inc. She currently writes career columns for Portfolio.com and Vault.com and teaches Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.
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