Unconventional Advice for Career Managers

“Get out there and network,” is well-meaning cheerleading that’s often bestowed on job seekers.

The concept of networking is just one example of conventional wisdom directed at meeting immediate needs. This advice is typically aimed at the seeker who wants a fish rather than a fishing guide. It fits for someone who unfortunately favors a work life in safe waters rather than in the bold oceans of unmet opportunities.

Go ahead and take the “quick fix” route if you are just seeking a job. If you’d rather manage your career than seek a job, I’ve got four unconventional pieces of advice to help you reframe this concept:

Don’t Network.
As an executive selection consultant, my business is all about making friends and establishing trust so that we can openly discuss client needs. While some may call this “networking”, I beg to differ. I call it “friend building." There is far too much “palms up” behavior in networking. These are actions you would never use with someone you know well.  Instead, people managing their careers engage friends naturally. The good news is that you know how to do this. There’s no need to consult a book or attend a seminar to learn how to cultivate comfortable friendships. It comes naturally. Keep this in mind the next time someone tells you to network: Friends refer friends, but are slow to refer stranger networkers.

Don’t Interview.
Job seekers consider interviews to be exceptional, uncomfortable and out-of-the ordinary challenges.  These individuals presume that they will be judged (and seldom positively), rather than welcomed. Ironically, these uncomfortable folks may be the same people who normally function very well in other business meetings, whether they are intended for collaborative analysis, joint problem solving or for all kinds of other routine job-related activities. 

In contrast, career managers are comfortable auditioning their “on-the-job” behavior.  When meeting new people they assume they are already desired team members – valued colleagues – and they treat everyone in a positive way. Even if the ultimate decision is not to work together they will have made new friends. Career managers prefer auditions where they “show their stuff” rather than interviews where they are judged.

Don’t look for job openings.
Job openings have rigidly pre-ordained specifications (often inaccurate in predicting successful on-the-job performance), multiple candidates, formal screening processes, etc. But when career managers are managing their futures they can be introduced to hiring executives well in advance of approvals or announcements of criteria-defining openings.

Career managers directly approach the organizations that are expected to need them. Sometimes through an introduction, they might very well discover receptive executives determined to build a solution around them and their desired career paths, at a time when a decision to recruit was only a vague prospect.

Avoid cold-calling recruiters.
There are many value-added benefits associated with an investment in a recruiter’s services; yet not all employers exclusively use these services as their first step.  Career managers are better off meeting, calling or writing recruiters because their target employers have referred them on to the recruiter. Approaching recruiters when they do not have a correlating search in progress dilutes career managers’ activities.  People are better off meeting their potential employers through their own initiative rather than by hoping for a broker to represent them.

Playing by the typical rules can work for job seekers. For those who’d prefer to convert their job search into career management, I’d suggest reframing this conventional wisdom.

*photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net