We say it a lot here at Mac’s List: networking is the single best thing you can do for your job search—or your career, in general. But attending a single networking event probably isn’t going to land you a job right away. Networking is about building mutually-beneficial, long-term relationships, not making awkward demands for a job.
This week’s guest, Abby Kohut, sahs the single biggest mistake you can make in a networking event is to ask for a job. Another fatal error is beginning a conversation by announcing that you’re unemployed. Both actions are deadly mistakes for the same reason: they make networking all about you and your needs. Such an approach is more likely to scare people away than to lead to a constructive conversation.
Instead, Abby recommends that you always focus on how you can help the person you’re talking to. Listen to their ideas, try to identify their challenges, and ask how you can help. This positions you as a solution provider—the kind of employer every organization wants. It also builds goodwill with your contact, increasing the likelihood that they will assist you in your job search.
This Week’s Guest
Abby Kohut, founder of Absolutely Abby, is a recruiter who has filled more than 10,000 jobs. Through her website, books, and talks Abby shares hiring secrets other recruiters won’t tell you. Abby is on a mission to help one million job seekers. She is now driving across the United States on a nationwide tour to accomplish the goal.
If you have a job search group, contact Abby on her website to create an event in your town. Abby also offers a free teleseminar, Interviewing Ingenuity.
Resources from this Episode
- Check out Abby’s book “Absolutely Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets: A Corporate Recruiter Hands You the Keys to Your Job Search Success”
- How to Make a Personal Connection with an Employer Even if the Job Listing Forbids It
- Nick Corcodilos – Ask the Headhunter
- Absolutely Abby
- Interviewing Ingenuity
- Resume Scripter
- Land Your Dream Job Anywhere
Hi, this is Mac, from Mac’s List. Before we start the show, I want to let you know about my new book,Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. I’ve been helping job seekers find meaningful, well-paying jobs since 2001, and now I’ve put all my best advice into one easy-to-use guide. My book shows you how to make your resume stand out in a stack of applications, where you can find the hidden jobs that never get posted, and what you need to do to ace your next job interview. Get the first chapter now for free; visit Mac’sList.org/anywhere
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host, and publisher of Mac’s List.
I’m joined by my co-host, Ben Forstag, of the Mac’s List team, and this week’s special co-host, Andrea Gerson, founder of Resume Scripter.
This week we’re talking about deadly networking mistakes you may be making and not even know.
Now, working with others can help you find your next job, and it can lead to a great career. But you need to network the right way. Our guest expert this week is Abby Kohut. She says, “Too many job seekers make the same deadly mistakes again and again.” Abby and I talk later in the show about how you can avoid making those errors.
Having a personal connection with an employer matters in hiring. But often an ad for a job says, “No phone calls.” Ben Forstag has found an article that tells you how you can reach an employer without picking up the phone. Ben tells us more in a moment.
Which format should you use for your resume? Functional or chronological? That’s our listener question of the week. It comes from Megan Smith in Bend, Oregon. Andrea Gerson offers her advice shortly.
First, as always, let’s check in with the team here at the Mac’s List studio in downtown Portland, Oregon. Our colleague, Jessica Black, is out ill today. I want to introduce Andrea Gerson. She is a career coach and the founder of Resume Scripter. (https://www.resumescripter.com/) She has offered to fill in for Jessica on this episode. Andrea, you were on the show earlier this year; it’s a pleasure to have you back.
Hey, it’s great to be here.
Yeah, well thanks for joining us. Our topic this week, as you know, Andrea, and Ben, who’s here with us as well, is networking mistakes. What kind of mistakes have you all made when networking, or perhaps been on the receiving end? Andrea, you want to take the first crack at it?
I always try to prepare, if I know in advance who I’m gonna be meeting. I think it helps me feel a lot more comfortable and less nervous, if I know a little bit about the people I’m going to be meeting with so I can learn more about the kind of work that they do.
That’s a great tip. For me, a mistake I’ve struggled with is I have the best of intentions but sometimes I don’t follow through, so I promise to make an introduction or send a resume on to somebody else, and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve dropped the ball a few times. So, many, many apologies to the folks I may have let down over the years, but just…the way I address it is I try to only commit to things I really have the time to do. How about you Ben?
Earlier in my career I used to make a very classic, rookie mistake. Which is thinking that showing up for a networking event was enough, that if you just went to the event, everything you were supposed to get from it would somehow just magically soak in. And that’s really not the case. You have to go there, and you actually have to network and that involves getting out of your comfort zone and talking to people and putting yourself out there.
Yeah, that’s an excellent point. You have to make things happen; you can’t wait for them to happen to you. Well, we’ll talk more about that with Abby later in the show – I know she has some great advice, and as well as some mistakes she’s seen people make. We bring them up in a constructive way because we’ve all made our share of errors and we want to avoid doing that in the future.
But first, let’s turn to you Ben, because you’re out there every week searching the nooks and the crannies of the internet, and you’re looking for those tools, books, and websites our listeners can use in their job search and their careers. So what have you uncovered for people this week?
So, Mac, Andrea, I’m sure you’ve come across job listings before where they say, “Please, no calls,” right?
I would guess about a third of them might say that. Do you have a ballpark guess, Andrea?
Oh, I would think that most employers don’t want to be called.
Yeah, I think that’s the case, and sometimes they explicitly say, “Please don’t call us.” So this week I found a resource that’s all about that dynamic. It’s from…actually, it’s from PBS. My wife saw this on television, and I looked for the tv clip and I couldn’t find it, but I found a transcript. (https://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/ask-headhunter-make-personal-connection-employer-even-job-listing-forbids/).
This is from a resource they do, called Ask the Headhunter: How to make a personal connection with an employer even if the job listing forbids it. (https://www.asktheheadhunter.com/) So, this is by a guy named Nick Corcodilos, who is a headhunter and writes a lot about recruiting.
So he starts off by saying, “Of course, candidates who can talk with a hiring manager in advance will always have an edge over the competition.” But what happens when the listings say, “Don’t call us, don’t email us, don’t reach out to us except through the formal application process.”?
Well, Nick actually says you should ignore that most of the time. And he says, and I quote: “I’ve never encountered a manager who would hang up on a good job candidate who called to discuss a job in a knowledgeable and respectful way.” And I think the key there are those last two adjectives, which is knowledgeable, and respectful.
No one wants to be called up and get the hard sales pitch on your qualifications or why you’re the right person for the job. Everyone is busy, and I think the main reason that employers say “no phone calls” is because they’re busy and they just don’t have time for it.
His point is, if you can find a good way to reach out to the hiring manager and talk about their problems in a constructive way and then, pivot your own expertise as a solution to that problem, that that’s a real, viable, and acceptable solution.
He says, “If you’re a little nervous about calling up the hiring manager when they told you not to, there are other ways to do this. You can kind of “guerrilla network” through the organization, through shared contacts or,” he even says, “find out who the vendors for the organization are and work through them. Or key customers of that organization. Any point of contact that you can get to that hiring manager will help.”
But again, his point is…it’s a dangerous game. You have to be careful, you have to be diplomatic, you can reach out to a hiring manager even if they ask you not to.
That’s great advice and I think…I love his point then about having a reason to actually call the hiring manager, because I’ve been on the receiving end of these calls and I think people are surprised that I take them and I’ve had a few conversations where somebody didn’t really have a strategy for the conversation. And it was surprising to me because there is an opportunity there, and if you knock on a door you want to be prepared if it opens.
Andrea, why do you think employers are reluctant to take these calls? Or put “no calls” in the job ads?
I think that Ben made a really good point that it is usually because, you know, they’re hiring because they’re so busy – because they’re probably in a position where they’re overwhelmed with what they have on their plate. To then be getting phone calls and have to be doing extra work, in terms of screening, that could adding more to their plate. But I think that it’s absolutely true that if it’s done well, if you’re making a case and you’re showing the employer that you really understand what they need, then it could work well.
Yeah, well, good.
So I think the key here, we all kind of generally agree that you can do this. Again, it might be a high risk strategy, but high reward at the same time. And if you want to learn more about this and what Nick Corcodilos says about it, we will have the link to this resource in the shownotes.
Great. Well thank you Ben, and if you have a suggestion for Ben, he’s always looking for ideas. Please write him, and we may share yours on the show. His address is easy to remember, it’s email@example.com.
Now let’s turn to you, our listeners, and Andrea Gerson joins us to answer one of your questions. Andrea, what’s in the Mac’s List Mailbag this week?
Okay, so this week we got a letter from Megan Smith in Bend, Oregon.
Hi, my name is Megan and I’m from Bend, Oregon. I was recently laid off after six years at my company, so I’m about to start my first job search in a long time. My question is about resumes: what format should I use for my resume? Do employers prefer a functional resume or the traditional, chronological resume? Thank you.
So, in my experience, I use a chronological resume about ninety-five percent of the time. It’s pretty rare that I would suggest that someone use a functional resume, and there are a few reasons for that.
When someone is looking at your resume, they want to get a sense of your professional narrative. They want to see the positions that you’ve held, how long you’ve been in each role, and also how you’ve evolved professionally. You know, how you’ve grown, and ideally taken on more responsibilities.
So, when we see a functional resume, often for me, it actually raises a red flag because it suggests to me that there’s something going on that the candidate is not wanting me to know about. You know, maybe there’s a gap in their resume that they’re trying to conceal. So for me, and I think for a lot of employers, a functional resume is not a great choice.
The only times that I would suggest a functional resume is if someone has been a freelancer, if they work for themselves, and if their work has really been project based, and if there’s been a lot of repetition, a lot of overlap. So, you know, having each project as it’s own section would really get repetitive in the resume. So in that sense, in that kind of situation, I think a functional resume is okay.
But most of the time, chronological format is really the best way to go.
I agree. I think the chronological format is the easiest to read. It’s the most conventional, and I think, while you do want to stand out in any search, I think this is an instance where you want to follow the group. You know, I was doing some research thinking about this question, and I found a survey that said, “three out of four hiring managers prefer the chronological format.”
And so, at this stage of the process, it’s about reducing the number of candidates. People are trying…hiring managers are trying to get from thirty or forty applications or even a larger number, to probably five or ten. So you don’t want to…you do want to stand out, but this could be a reason to get eliminated from the pile. What about you, Ben, what do you think?
Well, as somebody who looks through resumes, I’d say that I prefer the chronological format. We are, for good or ill, time based creatures and I just find it easier to look through someone’s work history if everything is listed chronologically, as opposed to the functional resume, where it’s hard for me to figure out when you were doing this, in what context you did it, for who you were doing it. It kind of takes your skills and your expertise out of any kind of context.
Okay, well thank you, Andrea, and you too, Ben, and if you have a question for us, please send an email to my colleague Jessica Black. Her address is firstname.lastname@example.org or call our listener line, that number is area code, 716- JOB TALK. That’s 716-562-8255. If we use your question on the show, we’ll send you a copy of Land Your Dream Job Anywhere, our new book that just came out in February of 2017.
We’ll be back in a moment, when we return, I’ll talk with our guest Abby Kohut about deadly networking mistakes you might be making.
Most people struggle with job hunting, the reason is simple; most of us learn the nuts and bolts of looking for work by trial and error. That’s why I produce this podcast, to help you master the skills you need to find a great job. It’s also why I wrote my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. For fifteen years of Mac’s List, I’ve helped people in Portland, Oregon, find meaningful, well paying, and rewarding jobs that they love. Now I’ve put all of my job hunting secrets in one book that can help you no matter where you live.
You’ll learn how to get clear about your career goals, find hidden jobs that never get posted, and ace your next job interview. For more information, and to download the first chapter for free, visit Mac’sList.org/anywhere.
Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Abby Kohut.
Abby Kohut, known as Absolutely Abby, is a recruiter who has filled more than 10,000 jobs. Through her website (https://meetabby.com/), books, and talks, Abby shares hiring secrets other recruiters won’t tell you.
Abby is on a mission to help one million job seekers. She’s now driving across the United States on a nationwide tour to accomplish that goal. She joins us today from Tampa, Florida.
Abby, thanks for coming on the show.
Thank you for having me, very happy to be here.
Yeah, it’s a pleasure. Well Abby, as you know, our topic this week is networking mistakes job seekers need to avoid, and we offer this up in a constructive way. You know, we’ve all made our share of errors. I certainly have when looking for work.
And we’re focusing, in particular, on events. When you see people set out to go to networking events, what’s one of the first mistakes that you see people make when networking there that they should be avoiding?
Well, I think one of the most important things people can do when they go to events is have a positive attitude.
When you go to an event, if you show up in a grumpy mood, you’re gonna repel people. Nobody wants to talk to people that are in a grumpy mood. So, you definitely want to have a big smile on your face. It’s one of the things in your tool chest, is a smile.
It brightens up someone else’s day when you smile at them, and it makes them feel comfortable with you and it makes them want to know more about you. So that’s a mistake that people make all the time, is that they go to networking events in a bad mood.
And they also get the feeling that they want to get something out of the networking event, and they have that feeling, and what I recommend is that people attend networking events, and more want to offer things to people. So go to the event and try to help your fellow networker. That is a great thing to do.
I love your point about smiling, and I’m sure you have this experience often yourself. I find that if I, you know, if I’m cycling to work, or walking down the street, and I smile at passersby, eight or nine times out of ten, I get a smile back in return. Do you have that experience, Abby?
Oh yeah. It’s contagious. Who wouldn’t smile at you if you smiled at them? I mean, I don’t always get a smile. Sometimes I just get like, a head bob, but at least it’s something, right?
Yeah, that’s better than a snarl.
And I also really like your point about walking in with a mindset, or, not expecting to get anything. And can you talk a little bit more about that Abby, why that’s important, and, but also how that can benefit job seekers in the long run?
Sure. Well, it’s important not to be expecting anything because you’re gonna set yourself up for disappointment, and that will cause you not to go back to the networking event. When you’re a job seeker, networking is what it’s all about.
You have to get out of your house, and you have to meet as many people as possible, because you don’t know who these people are.
When you’re in the supermarket, you’re in line, and there’s somebody standing next to you and it looks like they just got out of bed, they’re in their pajamas practically, and you say to yourself, “Well, I’m not gonna talk to them. They’re not gonna be a great connection for me.” But you don’t know who their stylist is, you don’t know who their mother is, you don’t know who their cousin is, their sister. You don’t know anything about this person, except that right this minute they’re wearing pajamas.
So, it’s really important to talk to anybody and everybody you can find. And when you go to these networking events, if you go and you offer your assistance to people, they’re much more likely to offer their assistance back to you.
Just help people, and networking, that’s really all it is. Right, Mac? I mean, we call it networking, and that’s a big scary word, but it’s the same thing you did when you went to kindergarten on your first day. You got into the playground, and there are all these kids there and they were playing with each other, and you have to figure out, “Who’s gonna be my new friend?”
So you have to talk to each person and try to figure it out. Who can I help? You know, getting on the slide, and who can I push on the swing? And it’s really the same thing, networking is really about making friends.
Yeah, it’s all about people in the end. One of the…I know you have a great blog post, out there Abby, called The Ten Deadly Sins of Networking (https://www.absolutelyabby.com/searching/the-10-deadly-sins-of-networking.html). We’ll include a link to it in the shownotes, but what I want to bring up that you touch on in that post, is asking for a job, and as you say in your blog, you should never do that. Tell us why, Abby, when you’re at a networking event, it’s a bad idea to ask somebody for a job.
Sure, well, if you just come right out and ask for a job then chances are, if the person doesn’t have a job, they’re gonna wanna go away quickly because it’s gonna feel awkward for them.
So what you want to do is you want to tell them, eventually…you don’t want to walk up to them and say, “Hi, my name is Abby, and I’m unemployed.” That’s like the worst thing you could possibly do.
But you could walk up to them and say, “Hi my name is Abby, what’s your name?” And just start a conversation. That’s all. And then eventually, one of you is gonna ask the other one, “What do you do?” And when they get to you, asking about what do you do, then you should say, “I’m in between successes.” That’s a much better way than saying, “I’m unemployed.”
But you don’t want to ask for a job specifically. You want to ask this person “Who in your network do you think I should be talking to about this project of mine?”
So let’s say, I’m a chief financial officer and I really want to find that kind of a job in a manufacturing company. “Who in your network do you think I should talk to about this project?”
And people love to help people; that doesn’t mean that they can hire you, but they love to help you. And so you give them the opportunity to help you, and they’re gonna really appreciate you, they’re gonna like you better, if they can actually help you. That’s why it works.
Yeah, I agree, people do want to help others, and I also like how specific you are on that example, Abby, when you’re encouraging someone to say, “I’m looking for a manufacturing job, and is there someone in your network I could talk to about that?” Because it makes it easy…much easier for people to say yes or triggers ideas, and that will continue the conversation.
Yeah, and if you say “Who in your network?” then it’s not a yes/no question. If you say “Is there someone in your network that I can talk to?” they can say no. But if you say “Who in your network?” it makes them start to think. It’s a little nuance but it’s a really interesting way of doing it.
It’s a subtle but very powerful difference. So every networking event, you should bring business cards. But how should you share your business card at a networking event Abby? What are the dos and don’ts? What are the sins people should avoid here?
Well first of all, make sure your business cards are in good shape, so that they’re not stained, or folded, or just badly bruised. And make sure they have the right information on them. Make sure that they have your LinkedIn profile on them. Make sure you have your email, your phone number, and maybe even a picture so I can remember you, that would be a good thing.
And I would not walk up to somebody and just hand them your business card. I recommend that you walk up to them, have a conversation with them, and then wait until you ask each other to exchange business cards. But don’t assume that you should just hand your business card to everybody.
I’ve been to networking events where people just do that, and I don’t know, it just feels weird. When people are walking around just handing out their business cards.
Yeah, I agree. I find that, if you don’t have a conversation, you get back home and you look at that card, or in the office the next day, I find myself straining to remember who that person was and what they said.
Now when people…I know you work with a lot of clients, and you encourage them to go to networking events. What do you say to the people you coach who say, “Well gosh, networking just isn’t working for me.” What advice do you give folks like that?
Well, I think some people go to networking events expecting the networking event to be the thing that causes them to get the job, but it’s probably not gonna happen at the event itself – it’s probably gonna happen after the event.
So if the event is not working for you, if networking is not working for you, it probably means you’re only doing networking at the events and you’re not asking someone to have a cup of coffee with you or lunch, or to just go hang out at the park and just get to know each other.
That’s the benefit of networking, because that’s when you really learn how you can help this person and they learn how they can help you. Whereas at a networking event, it’s noisy and you’re all trying to meet lots of people, so it’s really not the best time for you to both be helping each other in an intense way. It’s much better if you meet outside the networking event.
So if it’s not working for you, that may be why.
As you build relationships with people, and turn to them for help, can you go to the well too many times, Abby? Can you ask somebody for help one too many times?
I guess it really depends on who the person is, and you should be able to kind of pick up on the signals or the signs from the person. If they feel like you’re being too much of a nudge, then, like, for example, if this one person is the person you’re always asking to introduce you to somebody, then it’s probably a little too much for that person.
But if you do it once a month or something. it’s probably not a problem.
And how can job seekers help others when they’re networking? What can they offer to do?
Sure. Well, I always recommend that people have a job search buddy. That means somebody who’s looking for something very similar to what you’re looking for. And that way the two of you are looking for the same jobs and you can share leads with each other.
And one of you is going to land faster than the other but that means that the one that’s left out in the cold is going to feel…get a lot of support from their job search buddy, because the other person feels a little guilty that they landed fast.
So it’s gonna work out well for both of you as you create this little partnership. It can be a good experience for both of you. And also, when you…I know a lot of people say, “I can’t go to job search network events because all I find is job seekers.” But these job seekers have relatives. You don’t know who their relatives are. That’s why, anybody that you meet, no matter where they are, what they currently do, can still help you land a job because of who they know.
And in your article, Abby, you say that the biggest networking sin of all is waiting until you’re out of work to network. Tell us more about that.
Yeah, so if you have a job and you’re looking for a better job, the best time to start networking is today, if not last week. Because you want to have your network built up, and then when you need them your network will already be ready. I spend a lot of time with people that have been working for one company for twenty or thirty years, didn’t expect to get laid off, thought they’d be there forever, and never had a network.
And they get out of their job, and they’re on the street and they have absolutely no network. So that’s a problem. The other problem is there are people that do network and do land a job, and then they forget to keep networking. So once you start networking, you really should keep networking forever.
And we call this, ‘networking is not just for not working’. A friend of mine coined that phrase. His name is Jerome Leday. And I just thought that was a great phrase. So while you’re working, you should be networking. When you’re not working, you should be networking. You should always be networking, because it’s just about helping people and that’s how the world goes round.
Well that’s great advice. Now tell us, Abby, what’s next for you? What’s coming up?
Well what’s coming up is what’s been continuing to happen since 2012. I’ve been flying and driving around this beautiful country to try to help one million job seekers, and I’m continuing on that quest. So I’ll be traveling to a city near you probably every week this year. I’ll be probably in travel mode every week this year. So I’m very excited about that. So if you are in a city, and you are part of a job search group of any kind, feel free to reach out to me. You can just go to my website which is AbsolutelyAbby.com and I will reach out, reach back out to you and we can try to create an event with your job search group.
We’ll be sure to include a link to that website in the shownotes, and I know people can also learn more about you and your company by visiting MeetAbby.com
Abby, thanks for being on the show this week.
Yes, well can I just mention a little bit about what they’re gonna get with MeetAbby.com?
Yeah, go ahead.
So if they go to meetabby.com, if you go to meetabby.com, what’s gonna happen is, I’m gonna send you a copy of my tele-seminar which is called Interviewing Ingenuity. And it’s a bunch of secrets about interviewing from twenty two years of experience doing interviews for people. So you definitely want to go get that. You’ll get that at meetabby.com
I’m glad you laid that out for our listeners. That sounds like very valuable content, and I know it will be of great interest to people.
Well Abby, thanks for coming on the show and thanking you for sharing both your materials and your advice. Take care.
My pleasure, thank you so much Mac.
Okay, we’re back in the Mac’s List Studio with Andrea and Ben. I enjoyed that conversation with absolutely Abby, I’m curious, what were some key takeaways you two got from the conversation? Andrea would you like to go first?
Yeah, I thought that there was a lot of great information that Abby presented. You know, I think normally, when I think of networking, you know, it’s common to think that it’s sort of a self serving activity. You know, where people are looking at it like, “What can I get from this situation?” And I really like Abby’s approach you know, that she’s looking at it from the foundation of, like, altruism; which ultimately, you know..how much can I help and be of service to other people? Which is, I think, a really great perspective, especially for people who were job seeking themselves. So I thought that was really great.
Yeah, good point. Ben, what are your thoughts?
Well first, I liked the line, “I’m between successes right now.”
I liked that too.
I thought that was really clever. I go back to her point about networking being more than just a job search strategy, but really a career management strategy, and something that you have to do even when you have a job that you like and love and can never envision leaving.
I’ll be frank, it’s something I don’t do as much as I should, now that I’m employed. But she scared me a little bit so….
Feel like you’re standing on a trap door, Ben?
I don’t know, I see you sharpening knives in your office.
I will say, when she was talking about people who people who work at organizations, and never thought they’d leave, I thought of a colleague who went to work for a large organization which has a tradition of lifetime employment, who said…I think the person was in their late forties, “Now I’ll never have to look for a job again.”
And that may be true, but in this economy you never know, so it’s…. And even if you are certain that you may never have to leave that organization, to your point, Ben, I think it’s good for your career, even if you stay within one organization, to network both inside and outside that company.
And I like your point, Andrea, about altruism. It’s just, I think it’s probably good for our health in the long run to be generous to others.
Okay, well thank you both, and thank you, Abby, for joining us from the road, and thank you our listeners for downloading today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.
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