Several people recently asked me how to go about a job search. Where do you even start if you've been with the same company for some time, you've just come back into the market after an absence or your previous jobs all came through recruiters? Technology changes daily. How does that play in? Is everything done on LinkedIn today? One thing that hasn't changed is that more than 60% of roles are filled through networks, not through recruiters or postings.  What does this (still) mean?

First. Change your mindset. From job hunter to relationship developer.

Rekindle relationships with people you enjoy. How much better than thinking, "I HAVE TO GO NETWORK; IT'S A JOB TO GET A NEW JOB, UGH." (Especially the Finance lot of you! Go out and sell my skills? Paralyzing!) 

Refine it by targeting relationships with people who have professional problems that you CAN and LIKE to solve. (See comments at the end.)

But let's just start broadly. I wrote "targeting relationships with people who have professional problems", because:

Companies don't hire people. People hire people.

And they hire them in many capacities: to solve a single problem in a certain time, or to lead teams, or to contribute current skills with the expectation of growing with the organization, or any combination of reasons.

So many possibilities to connect personally. How will you?

What are your greatest accomplishments that can help solve a business problem?  (More about this at the end.)

Let's go from "I don't have a boss" or "I don't have a boss I want to stay with," to "How can I give to someone else and in the process find a new boss and team to join?"

How do I go about relationship development, specifically? I've been heads down, busy with my family and job. I have some network, but I'm by no means a social butterfly. Do I send out emails? Do I contact recruiters?

I'm compelled to share a big what-NOT-to-do in terms of email. I get spam emails daily from "internet" job seekers I don't already know. The word "I" is repeated many times. I just hit "delete," as there's no relationship here. The sender didn't bother to learn anything about me or our firm's focus on Finance and HR before messaging. The person didn't bother to look at my LinkedIn profile or website. Our clients hire A Player professionals with relationship building skills among other emotional intelligence. A person sending me this email has just shown he/she isn't strategic about relationships. 

Even if you'll mostly email people you know or were recently introduced to, the first rule is that all your communications must be balanced. What can you do for someone else? What can you mention of personal interest to the recipient? 

I am asking for someone's help. What can I give them in addition to offering my professional skills that will show I'm thinking about what's in it for them?

Back up. Start this way.

1. Become a news hound and pay attention to personal interests.

There's so many stories and market information in the local and business papers and journals like Harvard Business Review plus "hobby" publications (Runner's World, Triathlete etc). You can sign up digests pushed through to your email. Makes it easy to read headlines quickly and forward with a comment or two about why you thought of the recipient when you read it. If you see information about a competitor, that's valuable. Just forwarding it on without making it personal doesn't count.

I saw an article about the growth of on-line mattress companies. I shared it with my friend who is on the board of a competitor with a comment. The content you can share, meaningfully, is endless when you've taken the time to research and listen to get to know someone and their personal interests. I have a strong network of people marked with an "A" in my tracking system. It means some level of "athlete". A lot of cool articles could be easily shared.

You'll have to decide whether to let the recipient know you are open to new opportunities with his email or wait for another time to let them know. Probably the latter, to keep it focused on the article and any dialogue that might ensue. 

2. Ask at least least three current or past accomplished colleagues who know you well to give your resume and bio a critical review.

Try to include one former boss. The give back may be that you offer to review their information as well, even if they aren't job seeking....oops....active relationship building. If you've asked someone three levels above at a former employer, this trade may not really be appropriate. At a minimum you can ask what you might be able to help the person with.

It's obvious to me as I look through resumes that most people don't bother to have other reviewers. If they did, the formatting and content would be better. That's disappointing to me when the person looks to have a decent career. It means the person doesn't seek outside help when needed, and asking for help is an important executive skill.

3. Relationships with recruiters

If you are an executive level candidate and don't have a few recruiters you really like and have stayed in touch from time to time, this is a tough one. Executive search firm process is to identify professionals who are viable for a specific role at that particular time (client driven), rather than have a pool of job seekers to find jobs for (candidate driven). I would say the recruiter route should be pretty far to the end on your list of relationship development if you haven't already established them. Sorry about this! It's not lost on me... those who never return my calls call me the day they are open to an opportunity. 

If a (new to you) recruiter calls or writes you and the communication appears genuine and with a tone of caring about you, definitely respond. Try to help the recruiter with referrals or other networking ideas, even if the role is not for you. Dropping that person a follow up email or the ultimate hand written note as a thank you would help you stand out.

4. Introduce others

Everyone has a group of former colleagues they haven't stayed in touch with. Organize a lunch or dinner or ball game get together. Be the catalyst they're hoping for!

Or, you may be able to offer one-on-one introductions. That's ok even if you don't go way back in years, your guests at the parts should have a mutually beneficial reason to know each other. 

4. Help someone else who is open to a new opportunity

As you increase your relationship building efforts, you'll find out about others who may be open to a change. Listen and take a few notes about their highest priorities and reason for looking. You might be able to refer an opportunity to that person, presuming you feel you know their skill set and quality of work well enough to do so.

5. Make sure to consult a person's LinkedIn profile and google results before ever having a phone call.

It will often be a school or non profit or sports or other aspect that helps make the connection meaningful. 

A note about refining your relationship building by targeting people who have problems that you might help solve for their companies: 

This part requires more research than the broad reach outs suggested above. In this case, once you have thought about your past accomplishments that were key to your success, you could develop a list of companies and research on line to determine what organizations may have similar problems you can solve. It'll take time to then sort if you know someone or someone you know knows someone (LinkedIn) to make the connection. Research and curiosity are important skills to have in your quest to build relationships. The investment will pay off, even if you can't see right away how the stars will eventually line up. Find your relationship ship building legos and get going. Small steps will add up.

Now that you've got a groove on connecting, what next? What do I say or write about my job search?

See our upcoming post, Help Others Help You.