Ultimately, a job search is all about relationships – building meaningful connections with retained recruiters, hiring managers/executives, and key industry influencers. But how do you do that in world of information overload?
The approach I recommend is to give before you seek to receive from these important connections. Everyone else is bombarding them with requests from the get-go; if you take a different approach and offer them things they need before you ask your favor or try to draw attention to your candidacy, you will automatically set yourself apart from other candidates.
This approach to networking has been described by Bob Littell, author of The Heart & Art of Netweaving, as netweaving. According to Littell, “NetWeavers are genuine believers in the ‘Law of Reciprocity’. NetWeavers help others FIRST . . . without concern for how they will benefit, but with the confidence to know that somewhere down the road, ‘what goes around’, does come back around’.”
The bottom line is that give-to-get networking offers your connections something of value with no strings attached. Littell takes this further and advocates developing a “Trusted Resource Network” that you can share with your networking connections as you become aware of their needs. That’s a great idea, isn’t it?
What kinds of things can you offer your networking connections? Four categories of offerings occur to me:
- Referrals: Whether you’re connecting with recruiters, key influencers, or hiring executives in your search, they’ll probably need referrals of one kind or another eventually. These may be potential clients, companies, customers, connections, or introductions. If you have a strong network of your own then you have the potential to offer referrals to those you are connected with.
- Information: Even though most of us live in a society overloaded with information, we always need more. Your ability to broker information by giving people the right data at the right time is a genuine service. Hence, sharing information with your networking connections means sharing timely market, company, industry, profession, or geographic insights.
- News: News items are information, of course, but their time-sensitive nature sets them apart. By sharing an emerging news story, online/offline newsletter, or new event with your connections, you help keep them apprised of key industry happenings. This is especially easy to do if you are a savvy Twitter user.
- Resources: As with information, we all need resources sooner or later. A well-thought-out share of a relevant website, online magazine, service, product, provider/vendor, or white paper can be worth its weight in gold when delivered to the right person at the right time.
Now that you know what kind of things you can give those you want to build relationships with, the next question is how to source these referrals, information, news, and resources when you need them. Referrals can be sourced through LinkedIn, of course, by combing your own network and proactively reaching out to your connections in search of the perfect individual, group, or company to refer.
Information, news, and resources can be sourced via Google or your favorite search engine, but these kinds of searches can be time consuming. Two resources can streamline this process dramatically.
First, consider using a simple – and free – service such as Google Alerts. Essentially a saved search, this Google feature allows you to receive trending news, articles, and blog posts on any set of key words you can identify. You can set up as many Google Alerts as you want and have this kind of information delivered to your inbox daily or weekly. When the search results are delivered, all you have to do is sift through them, find the helpful nuggets, and package them in brief emails for the connections you want to share them with.
Second, try using a content curation service such as ScoopIt or Content Gems. These services help you cast your net wider for timely information and enable you to “scoop” details from RSS feeds and key industry sources by enabling you to customize your searches in ways that go well beyond Google Alert’s capabilities.
Whether you use manual or automated Google searches or a content curation service, you will want to:
- Focus your searches on different combinations of key words.
- Identify key information sources you can draw from in your chosen industry(ies).
- Condense the nuggets you find into short messages and tailor briefly as you share them with the appropriate part of your network.
- Always give credit where credit is due (that is, never present information as yours if it belongs to or was created by someone else).
- Include a comment on how or why it may be helpful to the person you are sharing it with.
Yes, this is an ongoing process of information collection and sharing. But I promise you that if you leverage this approach the rewards will surprise and delight you – not just in the short term but for as long as you serve as a “human Google.” Giving timely information, referrals, and resources to your network is an outstanding way to build effective long-term relationships while setting your brand apart from the crowd in the process.