I want to tackle a slightly controversial topic.
Controversial because you may have heard the networking mantra of ‘Giver’s Gain’. This is a simple formula which says if you help others, they will feel indebted to you and be minded to return the favour. It’s a principle based on reciprocity.
Giver’s gain is often mentioned in the context of adopting a mindset when preparing for networking activity. As the theory goes, you should not attend an event armed with a wish list of what other people can do to help you. You should instead think about how you can help them.
It can be a tricky thing – asking your network to help with your job search.
So why do it? I mean ‘ask for help’?
We don’t need to disclose our vulnerabilities and no friend or contact wants to feel pressured into ‘helping’ when they really can’t, or don’t have the time.
A better approach is that proposed by the informational discussion. Here you are simply seeking advice.
Research shows that advice seeking can be very powerful. Adam M. Grant (2013) points to four main effects:
There’s a very useful technique available to job-seekers. After the initial contact with someone who is minded to help you, the conversation can be moved on to a 121 informational conversation.
These are sometimes referred to as ‘informational interviews’ but, for me, the second word is wrong; as a job-seeker you are not in the position of interviewing anyone.
But how should you approach the conversation? Tread lightly is good advice and, while we are on the subject, advice seeking is the mode to be in (see my other post on this topic).
Here are some ideas for the kinds of questions you might ask. The mnemonic is TIARA (courtesy of Steve Dalton @dalton_steve)
• Trends – “What trends are impacting your business?”
• Insights – “What surprises you about your job?”
• Advice – “What can I do to best prepare for a career in this field?”
• Resources – “What resources should I look into next?”
• Assignments – “Which projects are most common in your work?”