Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 3 – the jobs and careers context 2

This is my third installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

I began discussing the preliminary steps of entering into a significant job search in Part 2 of this series, addressing this from an information gathering and networking perspective. And I began couching that in terms of negotiations and value sharing when reaching out to others for information and insight, and for leads to new and next-step networking contacts too. Crucially importantly for this context, I discussed all these issues there from the perspective of a next-step job search that involves significant change in what you would do professionally: in the type of business you would work at or functional setting that you would work in, or both. This means you’re really needing input and insight and the help of others, as you find a possible next path forward and as you navigate your way to what would be the right type of positions for you to apply for.

I said at the end of Part 2 that I would more explicitly discuss the negotiations side of this process here, and I begin doing so with a reconsideration of how you reach out to and communicate with your networking leads, and both to ones who you have already come to know and to ones who you have just met or only been directed to.

When you reach out to others, and certainly when you reach out to already very busy professionals to ask for their insight, you are asking them for a favor, and even a costly one. No one has more than so many hours in their day, and time and effort expended on your behalf means their taking away from other matters of importance to them. So you need to be appreciative, and as noted in Part 2 it is important that you make at least some effort to offer something of value back to them in return. That is all about negotiating: here, and in this case from a position of relative weakness and need. You will most probably need more than you can offer in return, but that does not change the basic negotiating nature of these exchanges. And one of your core goals here is, or at least should be, to build bridges that would go beyond this one conversation that you are having. True, you need and want information now, but even more than that and certainly from a longer-term perspective, you should want to build what can become ongoing genuine relationships.

• As a crucially important note here: effective networking is not about collecting names and increasing your supposed-connections count as that would show on sites such as LinkedIn. It is about developing real ongoing relationships.

With that point in mind, approach early stage networking contacts in this early stage of a job search for information only, and seek to set up these conversations as information gathering exercises on your part, and just that. Then NEVER go beyond that unless one of these contacts initiates such a goals expansion. Let me be very specific there; never ever approach a potentially valuable networking lead under the guise of simply seeking information and then hit them with a job request. First of all it is very unlikely they would even have an appropriate job opening available that you could apply to, so this would uncomfortably put them on the spot. And second, this would show duplicity on your part and that would most likely make them feel at least a bit angry towards you; they would definitely feel used and they would most likely be happy to never hear from you or about you again.

• Negotiating here means building bridges, and not risking burning them.

Obviously if a networking contact decides on their own that they want to share a lead with you to a management level colleague who is hiring, and who they think you should meet for that, pursue this opportunity. No, this might not turn out to be a best possible next step job choice for you but you can and probably will benefit from the practice and experience gained from trying anyway. And besides – this might turn out to be a really good opportunity for you too. You are, after all, still trying to identify and search out precisely what you should pursue now as a next career path job. So approach this type of outcome as an unexpected and unplanned for gift, and as a valuable one. And approach it as a way to develop and to begin to cultivate a valuable new networking lead too, that might hold genuine long-term value and even if this particular short term possibility does not work out.

Then get back to the networking lead who shared this possibility with you to thank them again and to tell them how this went. Whoever they directed you to will have shared their view of what happened with this professional. You need to do so as well, and to reinforce your bridge to them if nothing else. (And be positive in how you report back to networking colleague who gave you this lead and even if it was a dead end for you; never go negatively in this and no matter how this well intended offering actually worked out.)

Yes, do what should be obvious from the immediately preceding: if this networking lead suggests that you might want to try applying for some specific position with their business itself, say yes and follow through, and as a learning and practice exercise if nothing else. And reach back appreciatively to them as this plays out and regardless of whether you actually land and accept a job offer from it.

Let me conclude this posting by reframing a detail that I noted above in it. I wrote above, of the asymmetry of the networking relationships under consideration here where the established professionals being reached out to, hold more power of position than do those reaching out to them for career insight and advice. First of all, even very busy professionals can find personal value in simply being nice: in being helpful to others who are still on their way up, and certainly if they do not feel used by them and if they see positive potential in them. But second, and at times just as importantly, as a job seeker in need of advice you need help and value received on a shorter term timeframe and in the here and now. But the networking professionals you would reach out to, build and actively use bridges too. They might find longer-term value in connecting with and cultivating next-generation up and coming professions who they might have reason to reconnect with again, at some later date too. And with that noted, I repeat a simple basic networking mantra:

• It is not who you know alone that that matters; it is who your direct contacts know and in who their direct contacts know who you could, through directed negotiated effort come to meet and know too when you have need and reason to want to.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will turn to the second to-address point as initially offered in Part 1 of this series:

• Job search as it plays out when reaching out to and applying for specific work opportunities of real interest to you, with this process continuing on through terms of hire and employment negotiations.

I will discuss practice runs and systematic effort at refining your pitch and your approach in preparation for applying for your top choice and preference possibilities. And I will go from there to discuss applying for them too. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 3 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1 and Page 2. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

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