The Contact List Challenge
By Susan Posluszny
In landing a great job, it certainly helps to know people. After all, getting a job requires "connecting" with potential employers. They have to know about you, meet with you and check your references before they can hire you. If you think that you don't know anyone who can help you in your chosen field or industry, think again.
You probably have many more supportive contacts than you realize. Your immediate or primary contacts (people that you know) can refer you to secondary contacts (people that they know). Secondary contacts can refer you to their contacts, and so on.
It's often through these secondary contacts and their subsequent referrals that you hit the jackpot. These connections will often put you in touch with decision makers who are aware of staffing needs early on - a great advantage over your fellow job seeker competition.
Closer Than You Think
In an earlier edition of Howard Figler's book, The Complete Job Search Handbook, the author noted:
"A friend of mine wondered where in the world she would learn about the banking field and get the contacts she so desperately needed. Meanwhile, she sat beside a bank teller on the bus to work, tripped over a bank vice-president on her way into the building, had lunch with a friend who lived next door to a big money man in the financial district, and went bowling that night with a city manager who was about to close a deal with his local bank for downtown redevelopment. The best sources are walking past you, if you have the presence of mind to tap them on the shoulder"
Find the people who know the industries, work settings, and job functions that interest you the most and give them the privilege of sharing their storehouse of information with you.
Organizing Your List
So, where do you begin? With a blank sheet of paper, of course. First, list all of the people that you know, whether or not they are familiar with your chosen work field or work setting of interest. They need not know about specific job openings. Instead, think of them as information sources and as part of your communication network. This list could include:
- Co-workers and bosses (past and present)
- Religious leaders
- School acquaintances (teachers, classmates, counselors, and administrators)
- Physicians and other healthcare practitioners
- Insurance agent
- Hair dresser
- Mail delivery person
- Fellow members of religious, civic, athletic, ad trade or professional associations
This list of potential contacts is not meant to be all inclusive. Use it as a starting point and see who else you can add to it. After you have completed your contact list (and you can bet that your list will grow as you remember more contacts over time), add phone numbers and addresses to your list to facilitate follow-up with your contacts as needed.
Questions to Ask
Now that you have a networking list, ask your contacts one or more of the following:
- Do you know anyone who does the type of work that I am looking for (or is in a similar occupation)?
- Do you know anyone who makes a living in the industry (or industries) that I wish to explore?
- Do you know anyone who works in this type of setting or with this specific employer?
- Would your contact(s) be willing to meet with me informally to answer a few questions?
The Contact List Challenge
My challenge to you is to see if you can come up with a list of at least 50 contact people. Even if you argue that you don't know that many people, my bet is that you will be able to name at least that many contacts and probably more. If you get stuck, call on your friends, relatives, and past or present work-related contacts to help you build that contact list. Then, start reaching out to them.