Do you know who you know?

The other week I went to an event with people I used to work with. While some of them still worked at the same company, the majority of individuals had moved on to different opportunities.

It was great to learn how they were doing and to catch up. While I wasn’t looking for a job, I realized if I asked, so many of my former colleagues would be willing to refer me to new opportunities. It’s interesting, because in the past it would have never occurred to me to ask them for help. It also occurred to me that if I knew of any opportunities, I would be happy to share it with them.

I think there is this natural tendency to only ask those closest to you for advice and assistance. It’s much more natural to ask those you see frequently for help. That said, it’s worth thinking about the people you see once in a while, or not at all.

Who do you know in your life that you would be willing to help if they reached out to you? Would you be willing to share a job referral or a helpful bit of information with a former colleague? What about someone who you used to take a class with, or met at a party a few months back?

I think this is what a lot of Sales people are naturally good at that others struggle with – opening themselves up to opportunities and connections. Maybe if instead of thinking “Who can help me?” we can reframe the question to “Who would I be happy to help?” it would be easier to recognize the valuable connections that we have.

So my suggestion to you is this:

Think about experiences that you have had in the past at work, at school and in your spare time. Who do you know who you would be happy to help? Think far and wide here. It could be a few parents in your child’s class, members of your running club, or someone you trade insults with in a fantasy football league. Once you get a good, long list going, check on what those individuals are doing now. Then, start reaching out. See if you can set up a reunion with a bunch of people, or just email them and ask if they can keep an eye out for opportunities in your chosen field. While I recommend starting with those who are more closely connected to your field of interest, don’t limit yourself to that.

Don’t be surprised (or take it personally) when you don’t hear back from a lot of those individuals. Things go to spam, get missed or are skipped if someone’s doesn’t know of any opportunities. More importantly, don’t wait for a response from a few individuals before reaching out to others. The more you can connect, the more opportunities you will open yourself up to.

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