There are some questions you just don’t ask when you’re networking.
Riddle me this, Batman? “Do you know about any jobs in Human Resources?” This question is a deadly conversation killer. It is time to look at networking as something other than a desperate attempt to find a job.
In my recent article, “Let’s have coffee and set career goals to get ahead”, I shared my “coffee currency” theory that it takes about 4 or 5 emails / IM exchanges in LinkedIn before a contact is comfortable enough with you to agree to have coffee.
Tom reached out to me on LinkedIn with a nice note. I responded. After about 3 or 4 exchanges (I am easy!) we arranged a phone conversation, virtual coffee for long distance networkers.
After a little small talk, I asked Tom what I could do for him. He asked me the deadly question, “Do you know about any jobs in (fill in the blank – it could be anything)?”
What did I say? What do you say? What does anyone say to this question? NO, the answer is almost always NO. Nothing happens after NO. The conversation is over. Tom just wasted an interaction that could have led to a relationship by asking a dead end question. What a shame.
A networking opportunity over coffee is a terrible thing to waste.
Let’s figure out what Tom could have said. Looking at my LinkedIn profile, Tom could have asked me any of these questions to capture my attention:
- How has job search changed over the last five years?
- What advice do you give people to expand their use of LinkedIn for networking?
- Do you have any tips for folks searching for a job at year-end? Should I just take the month off and wait until January?
- I am also a boater. What kind of boating do you do? What is your favorite place to boat?
I don’t know which companies have open positions (I am not a recruiter) but I can talk for hours about these other topics. I would be excited to meet anyone who wants to talk about what I want to talk about. If you are that person, I will open my resources to you.
Networking is about building relationships. Here are some tips to avoid deadly questions and turn networking into relationship building:
- Find common ground. If networking is about building relationships then talk about something that is interesting to the other person, something other than your immediate needs. Frankly, no one else cares about your immediate needs, except maybe me!
- Ask questions that will get the other person to talk. The more the other person talks, the more they will like you. It just works that way.
- Treat the other person as an equal. Asking about open jobs puts you in a subservient, less valued position, almost like begging. It makes you look sad. Talk professional to professional about professional issues that are important to you and the other person to keep yourself on equal footing.
- Share your knowledge. Offer others the benefit of your experience and encourage them to do the same.
Eventually the conversation will turn to you. Asking questions that make the other person talk makes the other person comfortable with you. The conversation eventually turns to you. The other person will ask, “What is your story?” This gives you a chance to talk about your needs.
When it is your turn to talk, be sure to frame your comments in specific requests, something like this:
“I recently left XYZ Company. I am looking for opportunities in Supply Chain. I am specifically interested in ABC Company or EZ Inc. What do you know about those companies?”
Very specific, so the other person knows exactly how they can help you.