In the August 3, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newslettera reader asks:

I had a Talk to Nick call with you recently. I am following your advice to the letter, and I am building a network of contacts. I now have about 30 – 40 great contacts in my field in the city I’m targeting. I certainly am not surprised that I haven’t stumbled on the right opportunity yet, but I was wondering if there is any additional way I can leverage the people I’ve already met.

Now that I keep trying to meet more people, I feel like I am collecting lots of contacts rather than utilizing the contacts I have already made. I am visiting my target city next week. I will try to set up meetings with hiring managers that I have already had phone conversations with, in order to deepen the relationships. My question is: Is there any specific gambit I can use in these face-to-face meetings to get more directly to my point of getting a job in their company?

I do what you say and don’t talk about jobs and only talk shop. But how do I make the shift to talking about a job without sounding like a salesman? I just fear that I will ruin all the trust I put into the relationship by asking for a referral.

Any insight you could give me in order to make these face-to-face meetings effective would be helpful. Thanks again for setting my job search and my life on the right track. I have not gotten a job yet, but I am persistent and confident. You have single-handedly guided me from being someone who doesn’t know how to network to a master in three months. People I talk to on the phone tell me how they wish they could network as effectively as I do.

Here’s the short version of my reply. (You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)

Once you’ve established good relationships with all those new contacts, it’s time to harvest some useful advice from them. “I’m going to be in your city on business in a couple of weeks, and I wanted to ask your advice. While I’m there, I’d like to meet some people who know Company A and Company B… Are there people you would suggest I meet while I’m out there, on a casual basis, to explore job opportunities?”

Meeting new people and talking shop is a great way to expand your network in a friendly, honest way. (Who wants to be a brazen careerist???) So, where is that line? When can you shift a friendly conversation about work, to ask the other person to help you with a new job?

Have you helped someone who asked you in just the right way? What did they say that kept it comfortable?

This is what makes the world go ’round, folks! Please share your experiences and the subtle methods you use to advance your career without losing your friends!


  1. If someone that approaches me can get me to see my industry’s critical front-burner issues in a new light and they posses a proven competence and a track record of accomplishment in innovation and implementation when it comes to dealing with those issues, I will make an investment of time and effort to help that individual.

  2. I think that the best way to form a bond with someone is to ask them good questions. Show genuine interest in what they have to say and they’ll likely show genuine interest in helping you.

    At some point you just need to be upfront and let people know what you need help. Once you’re bonded over a few good questions then you should really think about taking a leap of faith. What’s the worst that could happen?

    I meet a lot of people for coffee, happy hours, etc, and I actually really appreciate when they are upfront about why they want to meet. It saves me some time because I can think ahead about how I can help.

  3. @Ryan: I think you’re absolutely right. When you’re genuinely interested in another person’s work, and you express it, and let them talk, then it’s reasonable to ask them for their input on your own situation.

    I think the key is not to “put the monkey on their back.” Don’t beg advice out of desperation. Don’t make them feel responsible for you. Keep the discussion casual – and keep it interesting for the other person. No one wants to find you a job – but they’re often glad to offer advice to someone they view as a compadre in the same business.

    Your other important point, implied in your last paragraph: Don’t be sneaky and don’t waste people’s time. Be up front.

  4. I just saw the announcement for this: It’s the exact opposite of the Corcodilos method for finding a job!

  5. @G: That’s just hilarious: “Apply to over 30 YC startups in under 10 minutes.”

    The question is, WHY?

    I wonder if the HR folks at each of these companies can reject you in “under 30 seconds” without ceremony? Gimme a break — what a ridiculous offer. Try this article: “There aren’t 400 jobs for you” (Are there 30??)

  6. As you build a network, attempt to build a healthy one, comprised of people who likewise network and understand networking. If you do you’ll find that what you’re trying to do isn’t that painful as they, as networkers, understand your goal…to ultimately land a mutually beneficial position.
    Seeking advise is a great overture and avenue and as Nick noted I’ve run across very few people who are offended by someone asking their sage advise. But it is only a beginning, one transaction. What you’re really asking for is for that person to establish a solid enough relationship with you to open up their network to you. That’s a bigger leap, because one feels an obligation to their network to not throw names around willy nilly. And the way you earn that trust is by the advise discussion. As someone said, ask good questions, show you’ve done your home work, understand their needs, but also give something back.
    If you know your stuff in an advise dialogue you likely can offer like kind. The interesting thing about about teaching and giving advise is that the teacher/advisor in so doing, often learns from the student/advised. Which is why people do it.
    In developing a relationship based network you can establish your bon afides over time by remembering people..perhaps by sending them articles of interest, and in the near term by sharing real examples/possible solutions to issues they’d find in their business.
    In sum if you bring something to the table, they’ll be able to see you beyond a one-time supplecant to a network value-add and as such open up their network to you (and vs versa). If that happens, the probablility of them going to someone in their space with the words “Hey I just met someone you should know” is pretty high, and you’re off and running.
    If you’re fortunate enough to be talking to the hiring manager, all the above still applies with the added value that “talking shop” can morph to “doing the job”.
    Your ultimate success is when you do this networking so well, you don’t have to ask, the people you talk to make the leap themselves and become your advocate

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