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Mind the Gap

Accessing other people’s networks [2019 Update]

Posted by Sarah Hobbs

One way to improve your performance in role, and gain access to career opportunities, is to build your profile beyond your known contacts by strategically accessing other people’s networks.

How can you build a team of job scouts – people who know what it is you’re looking for from your next career move, and who have a great relationship with you – so that even if they’re very busy they’ll make time to pass on tips about opportunities you might be interested in?

When it comes to accessing other people’s networks, there are three things I’d suggest thinking about:

1. Pick back up with peoplein person. It’s no longer acceptable to use purely social media to build those onward connections – we need to go back to person-to-person relationships.

That’s because it’s important when accessing other people’s networks that you involve them – tell them about your current career thinking, enlist them as a job scout, and allow them to give you the information and the support that you need. If they buy into helping you they’ll take the initiative to point you at the best people in their network to provide help.

Whilst you could try to do this ‘virtually’ through LinkedIn and the like, in recent years, scouting other people’s LinkedIn profiles to see their connections has almost become the norm to the point where searching “accessing other people’s networks” now gives tips how to stop people doing this!

2. Accessing their networks. Highly connected and successful people are being bombarded with emails and telephone calls asking for help, so a personal introduction from a mutual acquaintance is the best way to stand out. It also adds a degree of credibility if you’re being introduced, as it shows that the person they know values you.

If you’re in a position where you need to make the approach yourself, be sure to name drop. For example, using someone’s name in the subject of the email – “Kevin Blake suggested getting in touch” – can be great way to stand out. Bearing in mind how many emails the average person gets in one day; you need to make sure that your’s is read.

3. What’s in it for them? I’ve had numerous personal experiences where I’ve helped people from a mutual friend’s network, and it’s been treated like a run-of-the-mill transactional relationship. They get what they need, and that’s the end of it.

Contrast this with an approach where you make a genuine connection and bring the new person into your network. Connect with them on LinkedIn, take their contact details, and be mindful of opportunities or news they might be interested in. At the very least email both the introducer and the new contact to say thank you. Even better, tell them the outcome of their help – what happened next? Show your appreciation. And even better than that – find some small way of helping them in return!

Build warm relationships when other people are generous in sharing their networks. Interact with people as intelligent Search Engines who can help you meet new people and build warm new connections over time, with more than one conversation.