Source #1 – Your Network
The most obvious source of inside information in your own network. While that’s no shocker to most candidates, many candidates can use help in understanding what inside information is valuable, and how to uncover it.
For this discussion, let’s define network fairly broadly. In defining your network broadly, it’s important to understand what type of contact each person in your database represents. Your best ways to gain information from each group is different from the others.
Your network for this exercise includes:
- Your Close Network: Your close network are the people you know personally. These are people you’ve worked with, your neighbors, your friends, classmates, relatives, and people who have been to your home. These are people who will “fall on swords” for you, or at least break their company rules and go the extra mile to help you. Most people have a maximum 50-75 people in their close network.
- Your Distant Network: Your distant network comprises people that you know personally, but are more distant than your close network. This includes co-workers, vendors, ex-clients, ex-prospects, alumni, and classmates who you haven’t kept in touch with. Your distant network are people who know your name or have your business card, you’re in their contact list somewhere, they know they met you, but aren’t likely to go the extra mile for you.
- Your “Networking” Network: Your “Networking” network are contacts that you’ve met at networking events, trade shows, or conferences, but haven’t deepened the relationship beyond this. Maybe you’ve exchanged an email, maybe you’ve had a phone conversation, but you haven’t taken the step to meet with these contacts after the event, or it’s been years since you’ve seen them. Ex-clients and ex-prospects that you haven’t seen in years fall into your “Networking” network also. Your “Networking” network will probably open a non-promotional email that’s relevant to them, but they may not return your first call.
- Your Virtual Network: This is your online network, that you haven’t contacted in person, haven’t spoken over the phone recently. These are people who may or may not open an email that you’ve addressed, and who are unlikely to return your call until you first demonstrate what value you are bringing them.
How To Gain Help From Each Type Of Network
The approach with each type of network is different, based on the depth of your relationship:
- Your Close network is easy – these are people who will fall on swords for you. Since you’ve already built social capital with them, these are people who should be glad to help you. If not, then classify them as something other than close contacts.
- Your distant network is a little more challenging. While they are likely to take your call, in order to gain information and help, give value first before you ask for help. Do enough research to understand their hot buttons so you can first build social capital. Calling your distant network and asking for help before providing value may result in a polite conversation, but it’s unlikely to result in valuable information, additional contacts, or action. Why? Your distant network doesn’t feel they owe you, you haven’t paid them forward (or it’s been a very long time ago), and the people you want to reach are likely busy. Building social capital first gives you a better chance in getting the information or contacts that you want from your distant network.
- Your “Networking” Network typically wants similar things as you – contacts and information. If they aren’t looking for a job, they are likely looking to find clients or potential employees. By giving information and contacts first, you’ll find that your “Networking” network is much more likely to help you.
- Your virtual network doesn’t know what they want from you and may not recognize your name. In order to gain time and help from this segment of your network, provide value first. Once your virtual network contacts see that you can help them, they will be highly likely to return your calls and to provide help in return.
Notice that the strategy for all groups other than your close network is similar – pay it forward.
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