We’ve all heard the saying, “variety is the spice of life.” Variety also adds flavor and zest to networking and is a critical ingredient in your job search.
Ned is a market manager looking for work in his field. He has an active network of people he’s worked with in his field. But here is how he explains his problem: “I am networking with the same people all the time. We’re all in similar fields, on similar career paths, have similar skill sets. We know a lot of the same people and have worked at a lot of the same companies. I know it’s a small world, but this feels claustrophobic.”
Ned’s problem is lack of variety in his network. Since most of the people in his network are those he has worked with in the past, it makes sense he would feel limited networking only in this small circle. A network lacking in variety can stall a job search:
- Your network may not uncover many job leads for you because they are primarily in just a few companies
- It may be challenging to locate connections to target companies if your network is primarily people who have worked at only a few companies
- While eager to help you, your network contacts may not be aware of how your skills can be used in other fields and industries
To add variety to your network, begin by considering everyone you meet as a member of your network. People you work out with, parents of your kids’ friends, relatives, fraternity brothers, people in line at the coffee shop. Look beyond the traditional professional circle to much wider possibilities.
Ned is an active volunteer in his church, yet he had never considered networking with fellow church members. The first step was to engage in conversation with fellow members and learn more about their professional life. This was easy to do while volunteering and during social events. Ned quickly met two fellow members who worked or had worked at target companies.
Ned grew his network further by adding church members to his LinkedIn network, then researching their professional backgrounds and connections. This quickly generated several possibilities. As an added benefit, Ned found fellow church members were eager to help him. In general, people you know through non-professional channels such as sports, community service or hobbies tend to be eager to help, because you shared a bond through your common interest.
Ned’s wife found another creative way to add variety to his network. She networked with a school teacher during parent-teacher conferences. The conversation began when the teacher noted Ned had been an active classroom volunteer during his unemployment. Ned’s wife noted that he was looking for work and the teacher asked about his goals. It turned out the teacher’s wife worked at a target company. Quickly, a new and important connection was added to Ned’s network.
Another amazing thing happened when Ned took steps to add variety to his network. In the stands at his son’s baseball game, Ned was chatting with another dad who had a similar professional background. Instead of viewing this dad as someone who could help his job search, Ned focused on getting to know him and asked the dad about his professional life and goals. As it turns out, Ned knew of an opportunity that was perfect for this other dad.
While remaining open to networking anytime, anywhere and with anyone, Ned uncovered the opportunity to help someone else. It was a good reminder that adding variety to your network isn’t just about helping yourself. It’s about helping a variety of other people as well.
Need inspiration for adding variety to your networking? Read:
- How to Network Anytime, Anywhere
- Turning Social Events into Networking Opportunities
- Crazy Ways Job Seekers Network