I coach my clients to cultivate loose networking ties. (Effectively, connect with people outside of your immediate circle.) Many wonder how useful it is to reach out, especiallyÂ online, to people they only expect to “know” via the Internet.
My colleague, JT O’Donnell, recently wrote a great piece for Mashable asking, “Would you refer a stranger to a job?” Her response to her own question:
“I guess that all depends on what your definition of ‘stranger’ is these days…Last week, I sent an email to an HR Director introducing a candidate. Seems normal, right? Well, the catch is that I’ve never met the person I referred, or the HR Director – in person, that is. I met them on LinkedIn.”
JT explains her thought process in referring a virtual stranger for an opportunity:
1. In my mind, she’s not a stranger. While it is true that 93% of effective communication between two people is done face-to-face (i.e. voice tone and pace, eye contact, body language, facial expressions, etc.), the reality is that she only got to use 7% of her communication skills (the words and style of her writing) by e-mail to connect with me. I had multiple dialogs with her online – and all of them were consistently professional and enjoyable.
2. Networking online is easy an efficient. These days, it is estimated that over 80% of jobs are gotten by referral. FACT: The ‘Six Degrees of Separation Theory’ truly applies when it comes to job search. Just look at the evidence: it took me all of three minutes to learn that I was only two contacts away from the HR Director she wanted to meet, and just another five minutes of my time to send the e-mail recommending her.
3. Being helpful is good for your business-of-one. Leveraging our contacts online to help someone find a job in this economy is thoughtful and much needed. Not to mention, it boosts your own credibility as a professional. Besides, you just never know when you might need the favor returned. The reality is that anyone you refer still has to get the job, the assignment, or the sale on their own. So, it’s not a big investment on your part. I actually think the returns are greater for the person who does the referring.
I think that JT’s story is a wonderful reminder to job seekers – do NOT underestimate the value of “loose” connections and the opportunity to build relationships using technology and social media.
The majority of the 80% of jobs found via networking are not likely to be a result of “close” connections – What I like to call the “brother-in-law phenomenon,” where you have to hope your family member can connect you to an opportunity. Things are much more in the job seeker’s hands than that!
This contact JTÂ described in this story did everything right by building a relationship first. She did not cut to the chase to ask for a “favor.” JT was willing to refer the job seeker because she had a good feeling about her skills – and a sense that she would behave in a similarly professional way when connecting with another contact.
Job seekers who learn how to form relationships with people instead of looking at “networking” as a chore will be the success stories we career coaches point out for everyone else!