I learned a valuable lesson on the second day of my own job search many years ago about why you should never miss an opportunity to network. I’d just been liberated by my employer of 13 years and was feeling all the emotions we usually feel as we face an uncertain future: anger at my old boss, hurt feelings about leaving the company, and fear about paying the mortgage and other bills.
Lucky for me, my wife worked for one of the world’s three largest career management firms. My company didn’t have the vision or caring to provide outplacement service, so I was very fortunate to receive these career management services pro bono. My second day there, we had a champagne celebration for a fellow job seeker who’d just landed a job. About 40 other seekers, consultants and staff members gathered in the conference room to hear his story.
BTW, they really did serve champagne – along with orange juice and mimosas.
The Assembly Line Versus the Corner Office
The lucky seeker thanked everyone for their help and then proceeded to tell us that he’d been searching for 18 months (or 30 months; I remember my heart sinking and my stomach churning as he said “something-and-half years”). Then he told us he did what his career coach told him to do. He networked. He networked some more. And then still more.
He reached into a catalog case and pulled out a three-ring binder with three-inch rings. He held it up chest high and dropped it on the conference table. Some of us jumped as the thud reverberated through the room.
“Friends this notebook is one of three notebooks I made during my search. It contains hand-written notes from all of my networking calls. I had a very short list of ‘A’ contacts that I called every week. I had ‘B’ contacts I called once a month. I had a long list of ‘C’ contacts I called once a quarter. I also told everyone I met about my job search. People in my neighborhood. Friends at my country club. Even people in line at the grocery store.”
“I told everyone I could think of and everyone I could find – except for one person.”
“Several weeks ago I was sitting in the bleachers at my son’s basketball game. I noticed I was sitting next to the only parent on the team I hadn’t told. I was sure a factory worker like him couldn’t help a guy like me because I was the general counsel of an Atlanta-headquartered firm.” He let that sink in a moment and then restated, “He worked on an assembly line and I worked in a corner office.” Another pause. “Finally I swallowed my pride and summoned my courage and told him my story. To my amazement he said, ‘I know someone who might be able to help you.’”
“Friends, I stand before you today because I got out of my own way and told someone who makes a fraction of what I make about my job search. Never pass up an opportunity to network.”
We cheered while he held up the champagne cork and dropped it in a large goblet with dozens of other corks.
Why You Should Never Miss an Opportunity to Network
During his remarks, he said the position was created for him. Many years later it dawned on me that he and his family missed a tremendous amount of income because of his pride. Let’s say his cash compensation was $240K per year. If he had that conversation at the beginning of the basketball season, say three months earlier, his pride cost him $60K. If he’d had the conversation 18 months prior, his pride cost him $360K.
Here’s the bottom line. It’s usually hard, if not impossible, to monetize what a weak résumé, a poor strategy, or a bad attitude costs a job seeker. In this case pride was costing this gentleman more than $4600 per week. In business, we call this “opportunity cost.”
What is your opportunity cost per week? What barriers are standing between you and a new job? What are you doing to knock those barriers down? And who do you need to meet with to discuss your job search? Who have you left out?
Take action today to shorten your search, earn more money, and get better results.
– Dave O’Farrell