In a competitive marketplace, it’s tempting for job seekers to be as secretive as possible when it comes to job leads or job-hunting tips. While some of the other job seekers are competitors for the jobs you want, most of them are valuable allies that you might alienate or ignore with your stingy ways.
Just like good tippers make good lovers, generous job seekers are more successful job seekers. First, trying to sit on any useful information you find is going to prevent you from being a good candidate for a job club or job seeker support group. Even if you’re the kind of person who normally eschews support groups, these are terrific resources for job seekers. They help provide structure to your day in the absence of a work schedule as well as deadlines and accountability for completing job search related tasks. Also, job clubs and job seeker support groups are a terrific networking opportunity because people share leads and tips. Haven’t you often viewed job postings online or on the local bulletin board and seen something that was a terrible fit for you, but would be a great job for someone you know? You’re not the only one. Usually, it is much easier for people to identify and even generate job leads for someone else than to find their own. However, this approach assumes that you are willing to share any valuable tidbits that come your way.
Second, helping other people look good and succeed will help you succeed. The ability to develop other people is a valuable skill in the workplace. Anyone with more than five minutes of work experience will agree that it is lacking in the average management team. Like public speaking, arithmetic and spelling, widespread incompetence doesn’t imply lack of importance. Every workplace needs people who can quickly and effectively identify and address development needs in others. This doesn’t mean that you should feel obligated to act as a pro bono career/life coach to everyone who crosses your path, but if you have the opportunity to help a colleague or fellow job seeker shine in a certain situation, it is worthwhile to help whenever you can.
Networking is frequently confused with “shameless self-promotion” and this confusion often works to the detriment of job seekers. Knowing how and when to toot your own horn is important, but the most valuable skill in networking is finding ways that you can help others. If you act as a resource to someone else, they will be much more likely to reciprocate in the future.
The next time you attend a networking function, listen to everyone you talk to and approach the conversation as a way to find out how you can help that person. Taking this approach will help ease the guilt many of us feel when we attend networking functions to identify job opportunities. It will also make you a memorable attendee. Every time I attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting, I hear at least three people leave the event saying, “I am so tired of people showing up at these things and just asking what I can do for them.” Approaching the same people with the question, “What can I do for you?” will score a lot of points, and, eventually, opportunities.