“The best way to land a new job is to make new contacts. Hang out with people who do the work you want to do.” Nick, you often write that and it makes me misty for the days when that was possible. [See last week’s column.]
Even before Covid, “hanging out” with people was getting more and more difficult. After-work hangouts – maybe in big cities or company towns — are just gone! In suburban metro Boston, that seems un-pin-downable! Again, even before Covid, it seems like a lot of people with serious commutes were more focused on getting home than hanging out after work, especially as they got married and had kids.
The internet does offer some possibilities to meet people and “hang out” with them virtually, but it seems like the internet killed off a lot, too!
I often wish you and your readers would talk about how they make that happen — make new contacts that might lead us to good jobs. How do you “hang out with people” these days?
NOTE: We all know that other people are our main source of introductions and personal referrals to new jobs and work. The purpose of this week’s Q&A is to poll everyone for your ideas about how to make new contacts in a time when the pandemic has made it more difficult to meet people easily. I’ll offer this reader a few tips, and I suspect you can share even better ways of “hanging out” to make new contacts nowadays.
That’s a good question. Virtual gatherings are not as useful (or fun) as doing it in person. The virus has made socializing and meeting new people more difficult. The professional events and gatherings that served us well are curtailed. I wish I could wave a magic wand and get us all out in the real world to hang out! The internet and social media have not been an adequate substitute for having a glass of wine or a beer with people.
More ways to make new contacts
So that really forces us to consider how we can connect. During this iffy phase of the pandemic, meeting in person might be limited to outdoors, but you may still be able to pull it off. I sometimes round up a few business friends for lunch or breakfast in a safe outdoor setting, and suggest they each bring a friend, co-worker or boss — or a vendor or consultant they like. There’s no agenda. We just hang out and talk. We avoid asking about open jobs. We talk about our work and other interests.
Another way to trigger hanging out is to reconnect with people you worked with years ago but haven’t seen. Meet somewhere you all feel comfortable. The agenda can be to catch up on one another’s work, and perhaps to serve as a sounding board for one another to get a different perspective. I have two old work buddies that I go on hour-long hikes with. We each bring up a work problem we’re facing and discuss it. It’s amazing how someone outside your own field can help you see new solutions. (Learn why shared experiences are the key to good networking.) These two have introduced me to their own business buddies that I’ve met at outdoor cafes. (Not everybody likes to hike!)
Online ways to make new contacts
Does your business or field have any good online discussion forums where people talk shop? Do you belong to an association that meets via Zoom? Search Google for your type of work plus Zoom to see what you can turn up. You have to be creative and put a bit of effort into it.
If you’re in a trade or other profession (as opposed to working in an office), talk to your sources of supplies or services. Ask them who they think are the best in your line of work. Get introduced. Get in touch. If you’re not sure how to start a discussion, ask the person how they’ve handled a problem you’ve faced on the job — and say your supplier gave you their name. Offer to return the favor of their advice. You’ve made a new buddy.
Hang out on the phone
Sometimes the phone is best. About once a year I make a point of e-mailing past clients I haven’t seen or heard from in a long time. I rekindle things by suggesting we catch up by phone. These calls can go an hour! I make no sales pitches; I keep it social but professional. I always ask who they’ve met in the past year that impressed them, and that sometimes leads to introductions.
Humans are very social animals. We’re also lazy! There are ways to connect if it’s important to us, though it make take a special effort. I think it’s always worth it!
How do you meet new people and make new contacts that might lead to a job? Is hanging out with people who do the work you’d like to do still possible? Other than in-person, online or one the phone, how can we make the personal connections that open up new work opportunities? I’m sure you’ve got better ideas than mine!