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Network purposefully with a hunter’s instinct and a farmer’s mentality

5 min read


Job-seekers and hiring-decision makers agree that job hunting and recruiting are disagreeable, inefficient, stressful, frustrating and time-consuming but necessary for both parties. Most candidates are eager to avoid active job searching, and if they make the effort to network purposefully, it’s possible to do so.

Having a productive network that provides job leads is the key to lifetime “career insurance,” a constant flow of opportunities and continuous access to inside information about unadvertised or hidden jobs. Many thriving businesses never formally advertise; they grow through word of mouth, i.e., networking.

Personal referrals are the best way to source a new role. The process of initiating new connections selectively and strengthening existing relationships not only will source a candidate’s next role, but their investment in networking purposefully will create a pipeline of future leads. Having (the right) contacts, cultivating these relationships and continually expanding connections provides visibility, accessibility and credibility, thereby increasing chances for being recruited regardless of current employment status. Keeping in touch through regular interactions, collaborative ventures and shared experiences provides proof of skills, shows a willingness to help and delivers insights to challenges in need of a solution.

As an executive talent agent since 2000, I have represented hundreds of senior-level candidates and developed networking processes that accelerate positive job-search results. Even during the height of the recession, JobWhiz clients continued to made successful transitions within the hidden jobs market. The unadvertised jobs they landed were sourced via personal referrals, i.e. one-on-one networking connections, not via recruiters or answering job postings or uploading resumes.

The job lead began one of two ways:

  • a conversation between the candidate and a hiring authority
  • an introduction to a current employee, former employee, individual with a consulting relationship, or a friend of a friend who was able to get them a meeting with one of these insiders.

Their networking goal was to have a one-on-one in person with the hiring-decision maker — often a C-suite executive, board member or owner/investor. Often these relationships started with a phone call, proceeded to a video or Skype call and then progressed to a face-to-face appointment. They never got HR or an external recruiter involved; they always focused their networking contacts on the hiring principal or an individual with the hiring principal’s trust who could recommend them to the appropriate hiring authority. They chose contacts who were senior company executives, owners, investors, board members or had a close relationship with decision-makers. They initiated contact directly by phone, e-mail or through a mutual contact like a fellow student or alumni, professional colleague, social relationship, relative, industry thought leader or author.

Candidate targeting and positioning

Candidates can expedite access to desired roles by targeting their value proposition to emphasize matching the market’s needs and satisfying employers’ expectations. Correct candidate positioning attracts new opportunities while eliminating or mitigating barriers to threaten a smooth, successful landing. They selected target companies based on a match with their industry background and where they can demonstrate transferable experiences that show the necessary preparation and skills.

Anticipating where the search process may be derailed, rather than breaking down roadblocks as encountered, will accelerates this momentum. In simple terms, this translates to choosing target opportunities that are a good fit from the employer’s point of view. For example, transferring to a competitor or to an industry in the same vertical or from a customer to the vendor side makes sense to employers who are risk adverse.

In today’s market, employers have more control and are able to be very selective. If you want to have a shorter job search and make a faster landing, then this is not good market timing to change industry, functional role and geography in one move. Better to stay in the same industry sector or take on similar responsibilities than attempt to switch career direction in a single job change. Geography is less of a concern and less often a roadblock, except when it comes down to who is going to pay for relocation expenses.

The importance of networking

Networking is not just for active job-seekers. Touching base with connections should be a daily activity for those you know and those who know you. That’s how to have a network when you “need” help. For those lacking a vital network, initiating relationships provides two benefits: identifying the next position while simultaneously developing “career insurance” — the inside connections to access future career opportunities, enhance visibility and promote a positive reputation.

Today, careers are built on relationships and supporting the success of other people. Relationships with recruiters are just a small part of this network, which should include past and current colleagues, friends of friends, business partners, community members, industry contacts, social friends, family, etc. Jobs do not find candidates, and rarely does applying get one hired. Recruiters do not have access to all positions; the hidden or unadvertised job market largely eludes official channels.

Candidates must manage their careers like hunters seeking prey and cannot rely on an employer to develop their career or recruiters to harvest for them. Every individual has to take personal responsibility for managing their career strategy and establishing relationships to insure their career.

Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz, a nationally recognized executive talent agent and job search expert who implements swift, strategic, customized senior level job search campaigns personally making live C-level and board member introductions. Contact her at to expedite your professional ascent.