Getting Advice

Finding a job during turbulent times is not easy and the current global pandemic makes it very, very difficult. Many companies are facing an uncertain future in this environment and will postpone making hiring decisions if they can. It is also difficult to meet people due to lock down restrictions in many cities around the world and the cancellation of trade shows and congresses.

One way to work around the problem is actually to not look for a job at all but to use the time to figure out what you really want to do and to talk to as many people as you can about it using the phone, zoom, or whatever else works well for the people you are trying to reach!

In every space and every place in the world, there is already a network of professionals who most know one another and usually these are fairly small groups, especially at the top. Think about advertising executives in Berlin or Magazine Publishers in New York City. How many of the top people would you have to meet in order to reach a fairly large sample of the total population?

To get started, reach out to your former professors, managers, or even friends of the family. Do not ask for a long meeting but maybe 10-15 minutes on zoom. Once the emergency is over, you can even invite them for a cup of coffee! Ask for help thinking about your next professional step. If you can get each person to give you two additional people to talk to then following a geometric progression you will eventually speak with dozens of people from the network.

Once you manage to speak with some significant proportion of people in a given network, then it becomes likely that they would know about the most significant opportunities within the space and place.

While most people will give you the brush off if you ask for a job, many will be delighted to give you advice. The first question they will ask you is to “how can I help” and the second will be “tell me about yourself”. Such meetings, often look and feel like job interviews for which there is no specific job. If you can think of reasonable questions to ask and present yourself as bright, hard working and a quick learner, they might even try to help you break into their circle. 

The thing about this technique is that every meeting will make you a bit smarter about the new space and thus improve your ability to speak its language, know who’s who, etc. In effect your ability to penetrate the network will continue to improve until it seems almost natural for someone to bring you into it.

The best outcome is when you are finally speaking with a very highly placed person in the company you most admire and they say ”well why not work here?” 

I have counseled many people to use this technique over the years and there are only a couple of key rules to making it work. 

The first is to be as specific as possible in knowing which space you are most interested in. The essential idea is to exhibit a passion for the subject which can not be faked and a degree of homework which is only possible one space at a time.

Doing extensive research on the space and everyone you meet with is the second rule and with the power or the internet, there is no excuse for not being fully briefed on any company and almost on any person. People like it when you have read the books or blogs they have written or have taken the time to read their linked in profile.

The final rule is to be yourself and pretty open with who you are and what you think you can bring to the space. In fact, this could be part of your questions!

The main reason the method works is that when faced with people who are truly passionate about something our natural impulse is to try and help them. What’s even more important is that recommending such people to others we are actually doing a favor for both because as stated above, everyone is looking for great people all the time!

Published by Mike R

I am a professor at IESE Business School and lecture on strategy, sustainability and geo-politics.

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