Counter-intuitive Advice: Talk to People Who “Can’t Help You”

“You don’t know enough to know what it is you don’t know.”

Does that describe you?  I bet that it does about some things.  Hopefully, there are areas about which you can confidently say you know a lot, but for most of us, especially in our high tech, ever changing world, there is always more to learn.  How many are experts in everything?  I would challenge you to find someone who could give you good advice about anything you might ask.

As part of my work for Keppie Careers, I keep a close eye on career and resume trends by reading books, blogs and keeping in touch with my advisory board of professionals in an array of industries.  

When I’m not writing resumes, coaching, blogging and reading, in the spirit of “practice what you preach,” I also frequently meet people for “informational interviews.” I attend Chamber of Commerce meetings, visit close-contact networking groups and seek out an array of networking opportunities.  It is amazing to me how our  need for networking (as entreuprenuers and as job seekers) has spawned a whole industry of people for whom networking is actually their business!

I’ve been to coffee with real estate professionals, a dentist, investment advisors, life coaches, travel professionals, vitamin sales people, photographers and a salesperson trainer, just to  name a few.  It never ceases to amaze me how much we have to share with each other, and the possible “touch points” between our businesses or our networks. 

Taking the time to meet these professionals offers me the opportunity to share information about my business, but more importantly, I have a chance to learn about programs, events and opportunities I might never have considered.  I also try to share something that will help them and offer to be a resource.

In a recession, it is even more important to expand our circles when job seeking. 

Some lessons:

Never underestimate the possibility for really interesting common ground.  Some of the meetings I’ve least felt like getting up at 6 a.m. to attend have been the most productive in terms of what I’ve learned.

Just because someone isn’t in your field doesn’t mean they don’t have useful information for you.  (Or you for them.) Our lives intersect in so many points.  Think of someone you consider least likely to be able to share good information with you for your search.  Meet for coffee.  You may be surprised!

Open your eyes to the opportunities!  Seek out places to meet new people.  Join an organization, a new health club or take a class.  Google “networking opportunities, (your city)” and see what comes up!  Then, don’t just attend, be an active participant.

I attended a great meeting last night.  It’s a networking group for women and is held at a home over dinner.  We all shared information about our businesses and there was time for chit-chat.  It was up to all of us to see how we could help each other.  I could have done my “elevator pitch,” listened to everyone else’s, and left.  That wouldn’t have been networking, though.  That would have been attending an event. 

I challenge you – find a new place to meet people and engage them.  You never know how you might be able to help each other.  Networking, or netweaving, is all about giving and getting.  I was a lot of fun for me to be able to connect several of the women at the event last night to other contacts in their fields, even though we had no obvious professional commonalities. 

Engage – ask questions…be able to explain who you are and what you do.  Don’t underestimate the value of every connection.  Everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows something.  Inserting yourself as part of the chain is a great step in the right direction!

Networking sounds too hard? Even if you are shy, you can learn how to be effective at networking!  Keppie Careers will help you.  Need a great resume?  Mock interview?  Contact Keppie Careers.  We advise, encourage and enlighten job seekers and offer a toolbox of practical tips and support.


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March 2008
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