It is a well-known fact that most jobs are found by networking, but the concept of “networking” fills most people with fear, anxiety, and loathing. They picture themselves in big rooms full of strangers, anxiously making small talk and swapping business cards with other people who are equally depressed, anxious, and desperate. Many so-called “networking meetings” are filled with desperate people with one thing on their minds – “how can I get the next stranger to help me with my needs?” It is the job search equivalent of looking for meaningful long-term relationships by hanging out in singles bars.
The problem is that people rarely feel a strong commitment to help out strangers, especially those with whom they have little in common. So stop going to those “networking meetings” and instead, spend more time with fellow members of your tribes.
What do I mean by “tribes”? A “tribe” is any group of people with whom you share some form of common bond. We as human beings are wired to help out others we perceive as in our tribe, in whatever forms we define those tribal bonds. Some of our tribal bonds could include:
- We went to the same high school or college
- We belong to the same church
- Our children play on a soccer team together
- We are members of the same professional association
- We volunteer for the same cause
- We both collect comic books
- We are avid golfers
- We are in the same community college class to learn yoga or a foreign language.
- We worked for the same now defunct employer
- We served in the same military unit
One such tribal bond, for example, exists between Aggies, the students and alumni of Texas A&M University. It does not matter if two Aggies have never met before and are generations apart in age. The bonds forged based on common tradition compel Aggies to help each other. I imagine that, if an Aggie were to suffer an auto breakdown in the middle of nowhere, he or she could phone any fellow Aggie within a hundred-mile radius and expect to get help, no questions asked.
So, instead of going to “networking meetings” filled with strangers, spend more time at your “tribal gatherings”, whether it’s a hobbyist club, an alumni outing, a church service, a professional association, a volunteer project, or your child’s soccer game. Don’t go with an agenda of “how can this help my job search” at the forefront of your mind. Focus on whatever common interest is the basis for your bond, on strengthening established relationships, and on meeting other members that you haven’t gotten to know yet.
Then, you can bring up your job search as a natural part of the conversation. But don’t just look for just sympathy from your fellow tribesmen. They want to help you more tangibly, but they often don’t know how the best ways to do so. So share with them specifically what types of jobs you are looking for, what types of companies you are interested, and what kinds of contacts you would like to meet. Remember that every member of your tribe also belongs to several other tribes. In one of those tribes may be the right connection to your next job.