How can I make the inside job contacts I need?


In the August 1, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, an Army graduate needs help making inside job contacts to get around the personnel jockeys.

Question

I am looking for work and I am studying your book. If you have any advice on how to build the contacts I need to land a good job, that would be extremely helpful. I recently transitioned out of the Army. I’m new in town and don’t know anyone. Without contacts, I’m at the mercy of those personnel jockeys — and I’m not having much success. Certainly someone in my area (Pittsburgh) needs an experienced information security administrator!

Nick’s Reply

Don’t worry that you’re new in town. Remember that new relationships are based on common interests. Key among these is your work. You need to identify — through the press, trade publications, local professional groups — a handful of key people in Pittsburgh who are experts in information security. The more respected they are, the better. The nice thing is, such folks are also visible. You’ll read about them in the media — it’s a free high-level professional directory. Your goal is to make them your new friends.

Study up on them.

  • What are they working on?
  • What are they most expert in?
  • What articles have they written?
  • What publications have written about them?
  • Familiarize yourself with their work.

Then call them, not as a job hunter, but as a peer who is impressed with their work and interested in what they’re doing.

How to Say It

“My name is Bill Smith. I just got out of the military where I was doing XYZ, and I’m new in Pittsburgh. This story I read about you [or your company] instantly aroused my interest because I’ve been working on related things in the Army. I’m exploring the state of the art in our field in the commercial world. So, I’m curious to know what is influencing your work — that is, what are you reading? Books, journals — materials that are influencing your thinking about security. Being new in town, I’m trying to learn where the most interesting work is being done here. Are there any local groups that you find relevant and useful?”

Making job contacts, making friends

Now you’re talking shop and making a friend. Where you take it from there is up to you and your new buddy.

A tip: Don’t try to turn the conversation into a job interview unless he does. (Leave that for another discussion.) Share your e-mail address and get his. Drop a note with a useful link to an article on the topic. Stay in touch. The point is to form a connection based on your work. This can lead to job opportunities if you’re patient and friendly without being pushy. Get it out of your head that jobs appear instantly on Indeed or LinkedIn. Worthwhile connections take time and effort!

Make job contacts anywhere

This approach works well in almost any field. You may wonder how this would work for jobs where there are no “recognized experts” — for example, a secretary’s job.

You’re not likely to find famous local secretaries in the newspaper, and they’re not likely to tell you what books they’re reading about “the state of the art.” But you will find secretaries (or programmers or sales reps) working for notable people. And you can call those notable people and respectfully ask them which managers and which companies in the area hire only top-notch secretaries (or programmers or sales reps).

People love to talk about their work, and they love to talk to others who are enthusiastic about their work. If you approach them with honesty and sincerity, without expecting a job, many will gladly talk with you for a few minutes. (Click here if you think making new contacts is awkward!)

Be respectful

This is key: Respect their time. If a discussion doesn’t pan into anything, don’t force it. Say thank you and move on to another. You need just one fruitful contact to say to you, “Hey, you ought to talk to Mary Johnson at Company X. Here’s her number. Tell her I suggested that you call.”

This is how a headhunter finds good people. You can use the approach to meet the right people and to find the right company.

This article may help you further: Network, but don’t be a jerk!

For a more in-depth look at building an honest, productive network, see “A Good Network Is A Circle of Friends,” pp. 27-32, in the PDF book, How Can I Change Careers?

I’ll bet one of the people you call using this approach knows a company that needs you. Don’t hunt for a job. Call people who do the work you do, and talk shop. That’s how you make the insider job contacts that will get you hired. One step at a time; patience and perseverance.

How do you build your network? What advice would you share with this Army vet who’s transitioning into the commercial world?

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