How To Develop Powerful Contacts and Connections -- Fast

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The most frequently offered word of career advice is "network." The problem is that by the time you make a deep enough connection with enough people that one of them knows of a great-fit job for you and pulls strings enough that you land the job, you may be eating cat food.

There's a shortcut to creating deep connection in just the first few minutes after you meet someone:

1. Unearth a person's hot button, something they care deeply about. Usually, it's related to money, career, family, looks, avocation or health.
2. Get the person to talk about it.
3. Listen closely and empathically, asking questions, and revealing equally about yourself.
3a. If you sense s/he'd welcome a suggestion, tactfully offer it.

Let me demonstrate. Let's say you meet someone at a professional event:

You (in line for snacks or drinks): Sure is a big crowd.

She: Sure is.

You: I'm Joe Jobseeker. I'm an foreman in a manufacturing plant. Well, I was until last week. The union was pushing them pretty hard and so the company closed the whole plant and is having the products manufactured in China. (Without sounding self-pitying or desperate, disclosing early sets the stage for early deep connection.)

She: I'm so sorry.

Me: I'll find something. What about you? I hope you haven't been axed! (Humor helps.)

She: Not recently. I'm in marketing. (He notices that she said it in a flat tone.)

He: (Using a light tone:) You sound thrilled with it.

She: No, it's OK. It's just that with three kids, my plate is pretty full. (Aha! Her children could be a hot button. You'll know that if she becomes more animated while talking about her kids.)

You: I can understand. How old are your kids?

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She talks, you listen, sharing parallel experiences and showing empathy, and perhaps tactfully offering a suggestion. For example:

You: I understand your dilemma. Much as you love your kids, you'd love a bit of a vacation but you're nervous about sending a 9-year-old, let alone a 7-year old to sleep-away camp. You know, I have a dear friend who I trust, a great mom, who has kids about the same age and she raves about a camp she sent her kids to. Would you like me to find the name and call or email it to you?

She: That would be great.

When you sense that she's feeling reasonably connected and/or grateful to you, whether in that first meeting or the follow-up phone call or email, make The Ask:

You: As I mentioned, while I'm optimistic I'll find my next manufacturing job, in this job market, no one can be too confident. By any chance, might you know someone I should speak with?

If she knows someone, she may tell you ... even though you just met.

Put yourself in situations where have lots of opportunities to make deep connection with people who might help you land a job and you may well land one long before you'd have to eat cat food.

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