Four Kinds of Contacts

Donald Asher is the author of “Cracking the Hidden Job Market.”  The book is full of common sense tips for finding a job, combined with get tough orders on what it takes to become employed.  He pushes the idea of networking hard; after all, he maintains that you must have 100 active leads to follow up on at all times.  Here’s how Asher talks about your active network.

Asher maintains that most business professionals know somewhere between 600 and 10,000 people.  He says that you should divide your network into four active categories.

  • Hiring Authorities.  These are the people who actually have jobs and could hire you if they thought you were a good fit.  They may be people who’d be your new boss, or they may be higher up the chain at a company.  This is a small but valuable part of your network.  Asher warns that more and more companies have professionals who look for a great match and might be able to override the boss, no matter how fond he is of you.  So don’t count on what he calls the “rich uncle” theory of getting hired.
  • Direct Referral Sources.  These are people in your target industry who can tell you what’s happening and who’s hiring.  They can also provide advice, ideas and referrals, so Asher strongly recommends that you spend most of your quality time with this group. Asher’s fail safe method for working this group consists of four steps:
    1. Identify a job target of interest.
    2. Find someone doing that job.
    3. Talk to him or her.
    4. Repeat until hired.  Any questions?
  • Centers of Influence.  These are the people in your universe who know things and know people.  Malcolm Gladwell calls them Mavens and Connectors respectively.  Social media has made it possible for these Mavens and Connectors to be in constant communication with hundreds of people every day.  Chances are, they will be the source of your next hot lead.  Get them on your side; they love a good challenge and love claiming successes.
  • Everyone else.  And he means everyone; Asher says that you should make it a habit to speak to every person you meet and family members you might not have thought of as part of your network. Tell them that you’re in transition, and what you’re looking for.  You’ll get a lot of feedback, most of it not very useful.  That’s OK; eventually someone may produce a gem.   And along the way, you’ll meet a lot of people.  Use them to get leads back to Centers of Influence and Direct Referral Sources.

Asher says you should begin with, and spend most of your time talking to, people who are in the job you want to have.  Worried about your ability to do that?  Get ready for some tough love: Asher says that if you can’t get someone in your field to talk to you, you probably can’t get that job anyway.

If you’re not sure how to approach people you don’t know well, Asher has a simple system for that.  Craft a friendly and concise email, asking for what you need: information, a lead, a referral, or a meeting.  Then be willing to send it three times.

  1. Send the polite email. 
  2. If you get no response, don’t assume it’s personal.  Assume the recipient is busy.  Re-send the exact same email again.
  3. If still no response, add a note above the third version:  Dear A: I’m not sure I have an accurate email address for you… then append your original email.  If still no response, assume the email wasn’t accurate.  Fine another medium (Facebook, LinkedIn) and try again.  Repeat until hired.

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