It’s About Your “FriendWork” Not a Network

6 06 2009

I hate the term “networking!” It sounds artificial and a bit calculating.

Networking better describes IT systems rather than trying to explain the magic of flesh and blood human beings who connect and help each other in much more meaningful ways.

I’d rather think of it instead as a FriendWork.Kids

What makes life worthwhile is really our family and friends. They also have a huge impact in our careers since research shows that we get jobs primarily through people we know.

But when we are in the job search or new business mode, that awful word “networking” keeps popping up — and I personally struggle with the concept. I think most people dread going to networking events, or having to pick up the phone and make job or new business calls. I sure do.

Last Saturday, at dinner in San Francisco with a bunch of friends, I was struck by how MANY of us at that table had found jobs through each other. As our various circles of friends overlapped, there were even MORE people who’d found jobs as a result. The surprise was that I could see how each person’s act of kindness to another actually came back to that person later. Good karma is not some vague concept, it’s an exciting reality!

Here are some tips to bring your FriendWork to life (I’ll share some this week, and provide the rest next week):

1. Be a Friend First
The saying “build a network before you need it” is true. But better yet, to have friends, you need to BE a friend first. Focus on what you can do for the other person instead of thinking of what you need from them. That spirit of giving expands the possibilities, creating a larger ripple effect of goodwill and unexpected results. However, those with a spirit of “what’s in it for me” quickly turn off many, often without ever realizing it. Don’t get the label of being a “taker” or only connecting when you need something, or you will find your FriendWork dry up.

2. Do Your Friends Really Know What You Do for Living?
Don’t assume your friends know about the kind of work you do, or the kind of job you are seeking. Many of us have only a vague idea of what our friends truly do, and they might be embarrassed to let on. Tell them what you do (your 30-second description) and give an example (a story is more memorable).

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
Most people are happy to help, but many aren’t even aware that you may need a bit of help yourself. Especially for those who are “givers,” your friends may not think you ever need help. Put the word out there, and you’ll be amazed (and touched) by the results.

4. Be Specific
Just saying that you’re looking for a job doesn’t really work. It’s more effective to tell someone the specific job titles that fit you and the list of companies that are of greatest interest to you. Being specific gives friends a mental “hook” so that they can connect to key information in their brains, or trigger a light bulb moment when they hear about a job or think about someone in a key company they can introduce to you. You can be specific about how they can help you; review your resume, role play for interviews, give ideas for your job search strategy, the list is endless.

I’ll post the rest of the tips next week since I don’t want this post to be too long!