How to Have a Healthy Job Search Network
A successful job search can depend heavily on having a healthy network. However, you won’t have one until you build it, and you won’t have it for long unless you nourish or sustain it! Note: Sustain means to “strengthen or support physically or mentally,” and that’s as critical for a healthy job search network as it is for anything else you expect to be–and remain–productive for you. When I started thinking about this topic, I decided to do a quick search for ideas offered by other writers online, and I immediately found one that fitted neatly with what I was thinking. It’s called “Planting Seeds, Growing Your Network,” by Jennifer Miller. I’m sure I’ll find others if I keep looking.
Build a Strong Job Search Network
I should probably consider calling it a career management network, because that’s really what it is. You can’t have a healthy network if you only do something about it when you’re in the midst of a job search. It has to be an ongoing activity. So how do you build a strong job search or career management network? Be selective, for starters. Your goal probably isn’t to become a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker), not even to amass 500+ contacts in your LinkedIn network–although there’s nothing inherently wrong about reaching that number. At this stage, though, I believe it’s at least as much about quality as it is about quantity and maybe even more so.
At the same time, you don’t necessarily want to restrict your networking to online resources (social media and the like). Those are just one potentially useful venue. What about offline groups or organizations you belong to or have some kind of connection with? You might participate in sports clubs, book clubs, special interest groups, charitable organizations, or any of a number of other organizations that have at least the potential to become a career management resource. Since you’re presumably already contributing in some way as a member, you have a head start on gaining positive visibility and being viewed as someone who gives rather than just takes.
Sustain Your Job Search Network
Jennifer Miller has some suggestions about this in her Q&A article. In response to a question about how to devote time to networking when someone is very busy, she says, “Nourishing your network need not be as time-consuming as you might think. You don’t need to make endless rounds of ‘work the room’ type meetings.” Then she mentions three things you can do to build and maintain networking momentum:
- Send a congratulatory note or interesting article to a colleague.
- Dash off a short “how are you doing” email to someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
- Update your LinkedIn status page.
Can you maintain genuine relationships with a large network over time? Possibly not. In fact, I’d say probably not. Again, it’s that quality vs. quantity issue. Some degree of personal attention is required for the relationship to benefit both parties to it. If the person on the other end doesn’t get a sense that you actually value the connection, he or she has little (if any) motivation to sustain (nourish) it. The result might be that you both lose something that could have produced mutual benefit.
Be smart about who you have in your network(s) and about where and how you spend time sustaining the relationships with them. There’s nothing wrong in an element of self-interest, as long as it’s not exclusive (all-consuming). The time and energy you selectively spend can produce substantial rewards.