10 Things I’ve Learned About Relationships

by Chief Executive Restaurant Recruiter // December 18 // 2 Comments

The following article was contributed by Jason Alba. Jason is the Founder and CEO of JibberJobber.com. He has an BS in CIS and an MBA from Idaho State University. Jason has created a set of career management tools that are unique in the industry. Click here to sign up for free!. Jason is a prolific blogger who writes on topics of interest to the job seeker. Please visit his blog. And now without further adieu, here’s Jason!

I always heard the phrase “it’s who you know, not what you know,” and never liked it. I spent lots of time and money building my credentials and felt my resume was way stronger than my contacts. But when I got laid off just a few weeks after Christmas I learned that my credentials was only one aspect of my job search – and by neglecting my relationships with others I had greatly hampered my job search efforts.

Over the next few weeks I knew I had to develop new relationships – I was looking for people that could help me with my immediate need. The relationships that I considered “low hanging fruit” were those with recruiters. After all, they were the ones that got paid to help people like me, right? So I began to make phone calls, send e-mails and even visit a few in person. I trusted that these professionals would help me in some way. Hopefully they would help me with a job offer! But I would have been appreciative of any that could have offered any help or advice to set me on the right path.

This was like a crash-course in networking, doing it with seasoned networking professionals. Even though these guys network for a living, I grew to trust only 3 of the 30 that I met. Here’s what I learned from building my network with recruiters and professionals alike: 

  1. Building relationships takes time. Just because you call someone, e-mail or even have a great first-meeting, it doesn’t mean you have a great contact in your network. When I enter a new contact into my favorite CRM tool (JibberJobber.com) I usually start them off with one star. As we exchange more e-mails, have more phone calls and even have an opportunity to interact with business transactions then I bump them up. Rarely does anyone start with a five star ranking.
  2. Relationships are two-way. You can’t walk into a recruiter’s office, show them an “impressive” resume, and expect them to get you a job in the next 48 hours. Sure it happens but I was more of a generalist – so placing me wasn’t as easy as placing a highly technical programmer. I really brought them nothing of value – at the very least I could have inquired about any hard-to-fill jobs they had and offered to open my growing network. And, if I found someone that they should know over the next few weeks, I should introduce them.
  3. Good relationships have honest communication. One of my trusted recruiters who didn’t find me one opportunity, and I’m pretty sure didn’t even look for new jobs for me, gained my trust by saying one simple thing: “Jason – you’ll find yourself a job sooner then I’ll find one for you.” He based this on the fact that I was aggressively looking for a job, and he didn’t really have anything that I was looking for. But the simple fact that he told me this, and he was the only one that did, really helped me understand what role a recruiter had in my job search (and career management) – and it changed the way I looked for a job.
  4. Real relationships require constant communication. It doesn’t have to be daily, weekly or even monthly. I communicate with some of my network daily (via IM, e-mail, etc.) and some of my network once every few months. But the key is that you constantly have communication. When I call I want them to think “hey, that’s cool, its my buddy Jason”, not “wow, I haven’t heard from him forever… I wonder what he wants (or, what he wants me to do for him).”
  5. Initiating a relationship can be a long process. There are a number of people that I have developed relationships with during this last year that have been incredible. These are people that I had e-mailed or reached out to back in the Spring… and got no reply from. And I e-mailed them again later, and I got no reply again. And again, and again. But eventually they figured that I was sticking around and interested in a long-term relationship that a two-way discussion started… and it only got better from there. If you don’t get a reply right away (or at all) don’t give up. People that add value to you are usually hard to reach, or may not have great communication/organization skills … but the payoff to the persistence has been worth it to me.
  6. Your value-add to them needs to be meaningful.> You don’t get far in a relationship if you stay at a superficial level. “How’s the weather” is step one, but if you don’t move beyond this then you aren’t putting yourself in a position where you can help them, and they know it. One of the first things that I like to do is to open my network and see if there are people that this person needs to meet – a potential vendor, client, partner, etc. Other ways that I provide value are by evaluating their websites (one of my specialties – it takes about an hour to evaluate and draft an e-mail with feedback – always free), reading their blog to learn of their interests and projects and supporting in any way I can, etc.
  7. You aren’t likely to cash in on your network right away. Even though I’ve developed neat relationships with dozens of people in 2006 I’m not really expecting my networking efforts to impact my ultimate goals right now. These relationships are, in my opinion, at the beginning stages. We are friends, and there is trust, but the truth is I’m still a newcomer to their life. Keith Ferrazzi talks about “currency” – you don’t get lots of currency just by going to lunch or sharing thoughts in e-mails – the currency builds up over time, as the relationship progress. I guess you can think about the value of the relationship the same as the value of a stock – it grows, with interest, and possibly exponentially, over time.
  8. For me, its all about giving. I haven’t reached my financial goals, or business goals. I know that some of my network could have a significant impact on my business with little effort. But I’m a lot quicker to give without asking for help. What I’ve found is that as I give, the recipient turns around and says “enough about me, what can I do for you?” These relationships have been outstanding – I didn’t start them with the end-goal of tapping into incredible power or knowledge, but it has just turned out that way. I think that people in my network respect me as someone that they can count on to help, or give, rather than the guy that’s always going to hit them up for something. Apply this to your job search and you’ll realize why “I need a job” is a terrible message to communicate during a networking conversation.
  9. Building relationships is personally rewarding. Serving others is good for the mind and soul. Socializing and having relationships is important in my life. I would not consider myself to be outgoing or extravagant, rather shy and private (yeah right, many of you are thinking). In fact, the first month or two that I went to networking events I’d get there early and leave as soon as the hand-shaking started! But as I’ve warmed up to networking (and thought of it more as building relationships) I’ve gained some great friendships and mentors, and it has enriched my life.
  10. Building relationships starts with “Hi!” There are lots of books, advice and articles on networking. And there’s some great ideas, techniques, tips, etc. But we’re talking about building a relationship with someone, and that just starts with a “hi.” Don’t get overwhelmed by “networking,” and don’t get discouraged by the “power networkers” that seem to spend 20 hours a day doing it (and managing it). The value of having friends in your professional life is immeasurable – and to get to “friend” status just go meet someone and say “hi.” Have a nice conversation and then go back and read some stuff on how to network, but don’t wait to start building relationships until you “understand” it. Just go do it.

Relationships are key – its said that most jobs are found through networking. The right time to start finding new relationships is right now. If you haven’t given anything to your network contacts lately I’m guessing you have more of a phone list than a list of real relationships. Whether you are in a job search now, or preparing for the transition that’s inevitable, start now.

Born in Arkasas, moved to FL for 3 years as a youngster. Lived in GA most of my life. Married in 1985, 2 kids, one of each. Graduate of USNA Class of 1980. Love golf, computers, poker, photography, and gadgets.

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