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The Bigger the Better

EDITOR’S NOTE: This month one of my contacts has provided a guest post. We look forward to your comments and hope you visit her blog and website for more help on networking.

By Dumont Gerken Owen, Certified Career Management Coach

It’s not about the size of your network — it’s about the relationships you build. I’ve been networking for a long time, and over the years, I’ve made many contacts who fell off the map and many who I still carefully nurture as valued business and client acquaintances.

Time is money… and in your case, it’s the time and effort you put into your job search. So, do you want to spend this precious commodity building a huge network of contacts, or converting your most useful contacts into supporters with a vested interest in your success?

A short story:  I recently had a call from a client with whom I had been working for about six months. She had succeeded in a number of careers during her life and was evaluating which direction she wanted to go now. We narrowed her focus to one industry in which she had previous experience. She was then able to turn to the network that she had kept active through the years since she’d left the field. It took about a month for her to land a great job in financial sales management. Better yet, it suited her life style.

Now in her case, she already had a well-developed past network of individuals in a position to help her. However, even if you don’t have a well-developed professional network now, the same techniques that worked for her can work for you. Just remember it is neither easy nor fast.

On average, it’s going to take about three to four months before your network starts to pay off.

Try this experiment…

Put yourself in your contact’s shoes. Whom would you most likely help further their job search?

  • The person you met at a professional meeting, followed up with a thank-you letter,  but you never heard from again?
  • The person who went beyond the thank-you letter: the one who sends an update on each referral you’ve offered and checks in from time to time, relating his or her job search progress or passes on an article of interest?
I’d help “B.”  “B” is not just a contact , “B” is an acquaintance I have a vested interest in!
It takes time, effort, and determination to develop a “true” network: one composed of people committed to helping you further your job search.
What are some of the tactics for converting contacts to supporters?
  1. Consider your first contact with the individual as an introduction.  This is not the time to ask for referrals or even contacts.  It’s an e-mail or call to set up a time to talk.  It’s developing a new friendship; a true friendship not built overnight.  The individual has to get to know you.  It’s the same process developing professional contacts.  They have to trust you before they’ll refer you.  They have their own credibility to consider.
  2. Once you’ve made contact, develop opportunities that deepen the relationship.  The first is your thank-you note.  Keep it professional, but personalize it by mentioning something specific you enjoyed about your talk.  Make it stand out by sending it by e-mail within 24 hours and a second one “snail mail.”  Employers can delete an e-mail in a second.  They are more likely to open “snail mail,” and it’s a second chance to touch base.
  3. The “pay forward” approach.  Research as much as you can about your new contact.  Send them an occasional article about a new breakthrough in the field or congratulate them on a personal accomplishment or company success.  Once you’ve primed the pump, you’re ready to ask for referrals to new contacts.
  4. Once your contact provides referrals, let them know how it worked out. If appropriate, copy the e-mail to the new contact. Remember you’re building your relationships with both. Let them know you appreciate their help.
  5. Keep them updated on your progress during your job search.

Following these simple tips will help you convert your contacts to acquaintances invested in your success!


About the author: Dumont Gerken Owen has extensive experience helping individuals actualize their career/life dreams in the higher education, nonprofit and for profit sectors. Gerken Owen is dedicated to personal authenticity and work-life balance. She has helped thousands of individuals by guiding them through the career transition process and job search campaigns. Gerken Owen designs individual programs around her client’s goals and budget.

She is a Certified Career Management Coach with a doctorate in Higher Education and a master’s degree in Counseling and Human Services, specializing in vocational counseling, from The Florida State University.

Visit her website and blog,, or e-mail her at for a free hour consultation.

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