That's Networking. Used sensitively, it can be richly rewarding.
Now let's Network in reverse. Instead of meeting everyone your contacts send you to, let's pick someone you especially want to meet and find a contact who can introduce you. We'll call this technique "Targeted Networking." You'll benefit from it, even if you never change jobs.
Is there a Chief Executive you should meet?
Maybe he's a CEO whose head of a division, or a corporate function, is nearing retirement with no replacement in sight. Or possibly a CEO with a division or a function so mismanaged that he should be looking for a new executive, whether he is or not. Or maybe she's a CEO who's searching for candidates, but using a recruiting firm that can't propose you because your company also gives it business. Or perhaps a CEO with a corporate asset that's well-managed, but falling far short of its potential, because nobody in her organization sees that potential as you do.
Who do you want a personal introduction to? A high-ranking business or financial executive? Or perhaps the head of a university, a scientific association, a philanthropic foundation, an art museum, a professional sports league, a labor union, a charity, or an opera/symphony/ballet company? The possibilities are endless. But the methods of identifying someone you already know, who also knows the person you want to meet, are the same.
Maybe you can score an "End Run" using a "Social Networking" Web site.
Today there are lots (an estimated 100 worldwide) of sites designed to connect members with other members. All are based on the famous "Six Degrees of Separation." Each member is encouraged to input a list of his/her contacts. The computer checks to see who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows the person a member seeks to be introduced to. Examples in the U.S. include MySpace (which claims 60 million mostly youthful members), Orkut.com (from Google), Friendster.com, Friendzy.com, Spoke.com, Tribes.net, and Ryze.com. Most of these help singles hook up and help long-lost friends find each other.
But one - Linkedln.com - is strongly oriented to promoting business contacts. It might provide your answer. Certainly the concept is appealing. However, many members say they find other members-and themselves- reluctant to introduce strangers to their most valuable personal contacts. On the other hand, members usually are very willing to yield helpful information.
Probably you'll have to do some Basic "Sleuthing" to look for someone who may know both you and the person you'd like to meet.
Even so, you may be able to stay home, relax, and let the Internet help. Visit the Web site of the organization you want to join. Probably there's a roster of key executives and quite an extensive biography of the CEO, if that's your person. A corporation's Proxy statement (available online) will have biographical information on its Directors. A nonprofit's Web site will have similar information. And with such a prominent person, Google, Yahoo! and the others may provide the information you need.
A Few Parting Comments about Targeted Networking
Targeted Networking is a lot of work. You won't do it, unless there's a very compelling reason...probably to meet someone who controls an ideal job for you. And that job either is open...or looks from your vantage point as if it should be.
Then an all-out effort to reach your "target" may be justified. But when you get your introduction and make your pitch, be sure you're easy to say "Yes" to. Use the strategy we discussed in asking for a reference, rather than a job. Don't frontally attack. Instead, do lots of listening and subtle questioning. Maybe toss in one or two of your best ideas as possible approaches you might explore if, on closer inspection, things are as they appear.
The strongest response you can hope to get at the end of your meeting is:
"This has all been very interesting. I'll be thinking about our discussion, and we probably ought to get together again."
If the best way the person you've reached can use you is to fire whoever has the job you're aiming for, he or she may ultimately decide to do so. On the other hand, he or she may come up with a different way of using your talents that appeals to you even more. But one thing is almost certain: If you go in with guns blazing, naming names and suggesting tough action, you'll get the fast, easy answer..."No"...rather than the one you want..."To be continued."
Networking is your #1 tool. But use it carefully.
Networking-"targeted" and otherwise - is your single most valuable job hunting tool. But always bear in mind that the further Networking takes you away from people who actually know you and can vouch for you, the weaker your referrals will be. And if you push too hard to get appointments with reluctant strangers, your behavior may become stridently self- defeating. In asking for your appointment, try to imply that you're inclined-and able-to give, not just take:
"There is one good thing about job-hunting. And that's getting up-to-date on the really important things going on in the industry. I couldn't do that when I was chained to my desk. For example, those new wholesaler incentives that Acme has put in, trying to get the industry to adopt their Plan-O-Gram as a standard... At least four companies I've talked to are saying they're not interested..."
Unfortunately, only a few of the people you'll meet while Networking will at that moment control a suitable opportunity...or know of one.