CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Are you in the career matrix?

By Jack Kazmierski
Special to The Toronto Sun

We've all heard the saying, "It's not what you know, but whom you know." And when it comes to finding a job doesn't that always seem to be the case? How many of us have applied to "help wanted" ads, sending out resume after resume, never to hear from the elusive employer and wondering if some insider snatched up the job before your cover letter hit the desk of the HR person.

It could be that someone better qualified for the job was given the opportunity, but it could also be that someone who understands the art of networking was introduced to the employer by a trustworthy third party.

In her book Nonstop Networking: How to Improve your Life, Luck, and Career, Andrea Nierenberg, a self-marketing expert and owner of The Nierenberg Group, a management consulting company in the U.S., explains how networking can help anyone either find a job or advance in an existing career.

"When you meet people, you have an opportunity to be a resource to them," Nierenberg explains. "So my whole theory about networking is about giving first and developing relationships so that other people want to refer you and become your advocate."

Like anything worthwhile in life, networking takes time.

"What I see all the time is people all of a sudden are out of work, but they never took the time while employed to build relationships or alliances with people, and now they start calling everyone haphazardly and desperately," Nierenberg says. "But that's negative networking."

Even job seekers fresh out of school, although they may not realize it, already have a primary network in place - family, friends, people they used to work with, people they met at extracurricular activities, alumni, health clubs, church groups, etc.
Andrea Nierenberg

"I'm not suggesting going to these people to ask for a job," Nierenberg says. "But we can say, 'Perhaps you know somebody...' or 'If you were in my situation, what advice would you give me' or 'I'm looking to develop some skills to get into this field. How did you get started?'"

It's all about how you approach the matter and what you say. Otherwise people back off immediately.

"Everyone is so interested in listening to that famous radio station WII FM, which stands for What's In It For Me?" Nierenberg laughs. "Instead, they should be thinking, 'Let me find out first how to help the other person before I could ever expect that they're going to help me.'"

Networking is a way of life. Everywhere you go you meet people you can learn from or be a resource to.

"People just need to be aware of that," Nierenberg says. "But I see so many people go to networking events, and they just give people their cards and say, 'I'm looking for a job. I'm looking for this. Call me. Call me.' But why would anyone want to call? There's no trust, no relationship."
Critical Steps to Effective Networking
  • Continually meet new people. Join an association, read the industry trade papers, go to a couple of meetings, go to places you can meet people from whom you can learn about your desired field.
  • Volunteer. When you volunteer, you'll meet people who will see your skills and might offer you an opportunity or advice, or point you in the right direction.
  • Go through your database (mental or otherwise), and see who your friends are, the people you worked with, the people you know, and the people you could get advice from. If these people don't know you're looking for an opportunity or what you're interested in, how can they be of help?
  • Listen and learn. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they are networking is they are so busy talking about themselves that they don't listen to the other person.
  • Find ways to make connections for other people in a purely selfless way. You will reap what you sow. Down the road they'll remember who put them in touch.
  • Follow up. People are looking for opportunities or jobs but they forget to follow up. Return calls, e-mails, etc.
  • Find creative ways to stay in touch. This is one of the things people find challenging when they are looking for a job. They say, "I've called this person three times and they haven't called me back. What should I do?" Maybe you can send an article, or something you read about that's going on in their industry and may interest them. Include a note that says, "I saw this and I thought it might interest you." Send them a newsletter. Do something creative that will allow you to stay on their radar in a non-threatening way.
  • If you bug people and you're too much of a pest, they're not going to call you back. There's a fine line between pest and persistence.

  • The time to start building these relationships is now, when you still have a job. Nierenberg suggests joining a committee that has something to do with your industry, being a resource to co-workers, your superiors and others in your office.

    Set time aside each day to do a bit of networking.

    "I write three simple personal notes a day," Nierenberg says. "I also send three extra e-mails in the morning and at the end of the day to keep in touch, and I make three extra phone calls. It's just a matter of staying on the other person's radar and staying in touch."

    But what if you're already laid off, looking for work, and neglected to work on your network while employed? Nierenberg doesn't suggest calling existing contacts directly.

    "Write a brief note asking if they could meet briefly for a coffee to offer you advice. Then say, 'Like many people in this economy, I've found myself without a position, and I'm wondering what my next step will be.' This way you take the pressure off the person because you're not calling them saying, 'I want a job. Help me!'"

    If the person doesn't get back to you, don't badger them because they may not want to get back to you. Move on to someone else.

    (Jack Kazmierski ( is a Toronto-based freelance writer and editor.)

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