Networking & the “credibility threshold”

Generic potential energy diagram showing the e...
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I came across  a great blog entry this morning which I wanted to share here as it has a great deal to do with how job searchers have to build credibility in the early stages a  networking activity before people will be receptive to their message. Blogger Aurian uses the analogy of a chemical reaction’s activation threshold to compare to how much “energy” has to go into a new relationship before  we can get onto the “reaction”. Specifically he states:

The interesting thing for me was noting that, in order to discuss the business you are both there to discuss, you must first (a) indicate how experienced you are, and (b) show that you understand the industry. If you can’t satisfy these steps, then you end up stumped at Step 2, which is inevitably followed by an awkward excuse, a gentle nod and a quick exit.  The take home message here is that some reactions only go one way: Tell me why I should listen to you, then tell me what you have to say.

From my experience with helping job seekers work the “hidden job market”, it is a very appropriate analogy to the challenges of personal networking. If you want to truly “connect” with someone, you have to make sure you understand WIIFT — what’s in it for them? In our approach we coach clients to be clear in what they are looking for from the contact (and it is not a job — it is always about information only). The “why I should listen” is addressed by approaching the contact as an expert or authority on the subject, and the “tell me” aspect is about what information you are looking for help with.

So for example, “Hi, I’m Tim. I’m fascinated with how technology is speeding up new product introductions. I’ll bet that in your role as Head Product Development for XXXX, you have a lot of knowledge in that area. Would you have a few minutes to share some of your insights with me?”

Now of course, the most important part of this is that you truly do have to be interested in the subject you introduce. If you are not and are just using it as a ruse to talk with somebody, it will become apparent to them quickly that (a) you don’t really care about the subject at hand, and; (b) you aren’t really paying much attention to what they are saying. So you’ll get nowhere quickly without being authentic in your questioning and networking.

The “networking” part of an effective job search strategy is actually pretty straightforward. The real challenge in all of this is being clear on what you are interested in finding out. And no, being “clear” on finding out “whether you have any jobs for me” is the wrong kind of clarity to focus on.

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2 thoughts on “Networking & the “credibility threshold”

  1. Thanks again for linking to my post, Tim. What a compliment!

    I love the way that you have linked my activation credibility to the WIIFT idea. That’s a concept I was introduced to early on in my career and something I diligently try to apply as I navigate this working life (hence the topic of my own blog).

    I think one of the most important things you say is “and it is not a job — it is always about information only,” because often us engineers can become focused on the end result (“Did we make the sale?” “Did we get the answer we needed?” “Is the problem solved?”) to the exclusion of understanding the importance of the relationship we are creating. A relentless focus on the end result only works if that focus is shared by both parties (which is often not the case). A genuine interest and desire to build the relationship can produce a broader understanding of the problem to be solved (or the connection to be made, etc), and usually produces more robust results.

    I’m so glad I subscribed, and I look forward to hearing more of what you have to say :-).

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