Who’s in Your Circle?
Each of us has a circle of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, coworkers, parents from the PTA, fellow soccer coaches, members of the knitting club, and so forth. Many job seekers have a robust circle of connections in the offline realm. In the online space, the circles can vary somewhat dramatically. In the online environment, ask yourself, “Who am I connected to?” and “Through which social networking sites am I connected to them?”
For those of who are already using social networking aggressively for people-searching and professional career-oriented networking, you have already established a great foundation-well done! If you are not quite as social networking/social media savvy or up to speed as you may be on the ‘people/career search’ curve, now is the time to start.
Even if you have been a longtime social network user for personal connections, you may not be aware of how best to employ social networking as a central part of your career-building activities or on behalf of people-searching as a tool to drive job leads.
Most people are still using online social communities as they were originally intended. They use them as “social communication/stay-in-touch/what’s up” vehicles with their “connections” tending to be more of the friends and family variety as opposed to business/professional networking contacts.
Personal Networks and Circles of Influence
The term “circles of influence” is one more familiar to those of us in sales/business development roles (particularly those in the insurance business), and those with a strong background in professional networking. It’s not a term that means much to those outside these areas.
It refers to an individual’s personal contacts, specifically those who exert some level of influence on others around them-their “circle.”
The influence or “sway” that they have may be due to several factors: their standing in the community or business world; special educational achievements; unique/special talents/skills; dynamic/magnetic personality; high moral/ethical character; polished speaking skills; or military prowess. Because of these traits, these individuals are looked up to and command a level of respect and credibility that others may not possess, and they tend to be well connected to other important people.
And as a result of their influence, these ‘centers of influence’ can be very helpful in opening doors for others, whether to new business opportunities/deals, providing access to VIPs or “inside” political contacts/powerful people, and making important financial/banking connections. However, this only applies if you know them and they know you. Remember that relationship building/social networking is a two-way street.
And when it comes to career/job help, having several of these folks whom you know and are known to you on some personal level can be worth their weight in gold.
They can point you toward others you don’t yet know who may be able to help you with your people search. Remember, always focus on people/relationships first; job opportunities follow).
Certainly, you have a competitive advantage if you have several solid ‘centers of influence’ in your personal network of family, friends, and business acquaintances. You can always ‘tap’ them if you need help of some sort that they can provide.
By starting with the people you know personally, and connecting in an ever- widening network to others they know, and continue to connect to additional contacts, you will come across and develop new centers of influence.
It’s those folks and your proper approach and cultivation that can and will result in helping you tap into others that they know. They will aid in your people-search process and ultimate goal of realizing a satisfactory employment opportunity and perhaps many more.
Power Referrals…Plug into the Juice
Referrals are the name of the game. And more to the point are power referrals. These can include centers of influence, but your referrals certainly don’t have to be. Your referrals can turn on some serious social networking ‘juice’ for you.
In social networking lingo, a power referral is someone you may know-or if you don’t, you can gain an introduction to-who can help get you introduced to other people they know, that you want or need to reach, such as a hiring authority at one of your Top 10 companies.
In some cases, these power referrers can open the door to multiple people you want to talk to. The best-case scenarios is that you develop a really good relationship with them, resulting in them becoming your advocate and/or coach. This makes them extremely valuable to your people-search cause and ultimate objective.
Power referrers can be immensely helpful, but they need to be nurtured and developed before you can approach them with your main goals. This may mean getting introduced to them and having them get you an introduction to the people they know. From the first contact/introduction through building your relationship, how you approach them is a key to moving your agenda forward.
Start with Your Core Personal Network
It doesn’t matter if you have five, 50, or 500 people you know in your current personal network. This is your core: Start with them. Even though these are people you know personally – friends, acquaintances, relatives, business peers, co-workers, church contacts-.you still want to start your approach with the social side of things.
The first thing is ensure your list is as complete as possible. Why? Because every single one of those people knows someone else. Maybe it’s just seven, but maybe it’s several thousand other people. You don’t know. Nor do you know where your next career opportunity will come from. Life is strange that way. Never overlook anyone. Leave no stone unturned.
You will want to divide your core list into two groups-those who you know well and with whom you’re in contact regularly, and those who don’t know you nearly as well (but need to).
If you have a strong existing relationship and regular communication with a contact, you can jump right in, broadcasting your message of a needed job change or new employment. Hopefully that will produce some potential employer “interest” or news of job openings to pursue.
The other part of your list-those family, more casual friends, and acquaintances who don’t really know you that well or with whom you’re not in touch regularly-will require more effort, as you will need to start forging closer connections with them
Because there’s some sort of prior connection in place already, reach out to them, but not about your job situation. Start with a ‘Hi, what’s new, how’ve you been?’ approach.
Re-establish the rapport or connection you initially made. Find or rediscover common ground and interests. Learn what’s new with the family, their life, their kids, vacations they’ve taken, recent home improvements, or mutual friends in common. Show interest-sincere and genuine interest. And actively LISTEN to what they have to say which will help you reconnect with them.
Build on your reconnecting efforts with multiple follow ups, but do it naturally. You don’t want to leave the impression with them of, “What does he/she WANT with me?”
Once you’ve rebuilt these relationships,then you can ask for some help and share your employment situation/needs. Due to having had a prior connection with them, it will take less time to get to this point than if you were starting from scratch.
Depending on how ‘local’ your core network is, you can integrate some more traditional networking avenues into your plans. Move to arranging a lunch meeting, find out more about their job, industry and work. Ask for suggestions, help with a resume review, or general advice. It’s about creating and nurturing trust, credibility, and likeability.
Set yourself a schedule of calling on and talking with a certain number of your personal network each day, week, and month. Commit to following through and doing what you set out to do. Remember: consistency counts in your targeted people search.
Sherrie A. Madia, Ph.D. is an educator, author, and trainer. Her most recent books include The Social Media Survival Guide (Also available in Spanish), The Online Job Search Survival Guide, and S.E.R.I.A.L.PRENEURSHIP: The Secrets of Repeatable Business Success. She is frequently cited by the national media as an expert in social media. She is Director of Communications, External Affairs, and a Lecturer at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
To schedule an individual consultation or group workshop on online job-search, visit http://www.OnlineJobSearchBook.com.