How to Build Relationships that Work in Your Career, with Francina Harrison

Listen On:

Trying to find a job by sending out mass resumes will only lead to frustration in your job search. You need people who are on your side and who can help you. Find Your Dream Job guest Francina Harrison calls these R-E-A-L relationships; human-to-human interactions that lead to the information you need. As you seek out these REAL relationships, follow the advice Francina offers, “Don’t get anxious; get prepared!” by knowing three things: who you are, what you have, and what you want. 

About Our Guest:

Francina Harrison is the CEO of The Career Engineer®. Her company helps career changers, job seekers, and entrepreneurs. Francina is also the author of A Mind to Work: The Life and Career Planning Guide for People Who STILL Need To Work.

Resources in This Episode:

  • If you’re feeling anxious about finding your next job, learn more about TCE’s motto – “Don’t get anxious, get prepared!” by visiting the website at
  • From our Sponsor: Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume.  TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. Get a free review of your resume today from one of TopResume’s expert writers.


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 438:

How to Build Relationships that Work in Your Career, with Francina Harrison

Airdate: February 21, 2024

Mac Prichard:

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 your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.

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Your professional relationships are a huge asset when you do a job search.

The people you know in your field can make referrals, arrange introductions, and open otherwise closed doors.

Francina Harrison is here to talk about how to build real relationships that work in your career.

She’s the CEO of The Career Engineer®.

Her company helps career changers, job seekers, and entrepreneurs.

Francina is also the author of A Mind to Work: The Life and Career Planning Guide for People Who STILL Need To Work.

She joins us from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Well, Francina, here’s where I want to start. Why do relationships matter so much when you’re doing a job search?

Francina Harrison:

Yeah, well, relationships are a big deal. Even though we’re in a high-tech world now, with all of the tools of the internet, it’s that human-to-human connection that is still more than fifty percent giving you your next interview or your next contact.

So, the art and the science of building real relationships, and we purposely say real, capital R-E-A-L. Because it’s that type of network, and it helps not just open the door but oftentimes can get you in the seat in that new chair on a Monday morning.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned a statistic there a moment ago. More than fifty percent. Tell us more about that number and what you have in mind there.

Francina Harrison:

Yeah, that word of mouth, that golden passive employee or talent; that’s always been the best hire for most businesses and organizations and employers. So, even though, again, we’re in the twenty-first century, and we’ve got our social media and all of those wonderful platforms to help us network online, any good manager, any great decision maker or supervisor or CEO would always want that warm, golden referral by someone they know, like, and trust.

So, the ability to build real relationships, not just companies do it all of the time. But I mean, those individuals who think of themselves, as I call it, the career entrepreneur and really work on that networking skill. How can you build that one-on-one to get access and opportunity?

So, to me, when we’re working with our clients, making sure they know the art of networking, and a lot of people are afraid to network still, for several reasons. But once you look at it from the one-on-one and the human-to-human level, being a real relationship networker will always help you keep revenue coming.

Mac Prichard:

We’re gonna talk more about networking and that art of networking that you mentioned a moment ago. But you also used a phrase, the golden referral. So what would you say to a listener who every Monday sits down and grinds out those online applications and isn’t tapping into those golden referrals? Why can’t you rely on sending out lots and lots of resumes alone?

Francina Harrison:

Because that’s what your competition’s doing all day long. It’s very easy to send out on our wonderful devices, a mobile device, or your desktop, and do that, use your best job boards and just mass send everything out. But where’s the human touch in it?

And what we’re finding, particularly post the global trauma we’ve all had, many, many moons ago. But folks want that human-to-human relationship. So, I challenge most career seekers, most career changers, that if you’re not stepping up and doing some and face-to-face could be virtual. But meet someone for a cup of coffee.

Tap into your existing networks and let them know that you’re in the market, or exploring the market, or looking to make a change. And access that hidden, you have folks that are looking for you with their eyes and ears, too. So, if you’re only, and that’s the big word O-N-L-Y. If you’re only doing the online and only doing that, and you’re not doing the human-to-human, you’re really doing yourself a disservice because of that word of mouth.

Any business on the planet loves the word-of-mouth client. They usually come in more competent. They’re confident. They’re a commodity versus being common.

So, as the job seeker or changer, if you’re not upping your networking game or strategy, like I said, to be a relationship networker, you’re really working harder than you have to, and you are most times not getting in the right marketplace that you should be.

Mac Prichard:

Is it only professional connections that matter, Francina? Or can your relationships with family, friends, or even casual acquaintances make a difference?

Francina Harrison:

Absolutely, whatever your source of networking. I have had situations. I’m a big football fan, and I actually had a great interview with a major coach for an NFL team because I love football, and I happened to be at a youth camp because I just happened to love football.

So, it could be in the faith community. It could be at the PTA. It could be alumni associations if you’re a student or a graduate or went to college ten years ago or last week. Wherever you tap into, so friends, family, past employers even.

I have some clients; we call them boomerang employees. They left on good terms. Things changed. They wanted to go back, and because they were such great networkers and understood real relationship building, they were able to still have a conversation that led to a collaboration that maybe led to a connection that then got to, you’re hired.

So, yes. If you are a member of professional associations and go to your conferences, absolutely you should network there. But don’t dismiss friends, family, things you’re involved in where you do stuff in your communities, nonprofits, places like that. There are incredible folks in the circles that you are. You just haven’t tapped into them yet.

Mac Prichard:

Why do you think so many candidates are either uncomfortable or just don’t like networking? What’s going on there?

Francina Harrison:

And believe it or not, I was, many, many moons ago, one of those folks. It just seemed like an awkward place. I’d go to an industry event, and cliques were there. Or what do I say? How do I jump into that conversation that’s already going on? And I don’t know these people.

But that’s why when we started doing what we do, we took networking to a different, more personable level. You may know I have a masters in social work. I was clinically trained. So, I’m a big social people person.

So, I wanted a strategy or something to help people listen, go into that event as if you’re the host, and there’s a way you can connect with other human beings and be less awkward, not feel so awkward or uncomfortable. And that’s what relationship networking does. Also, some people associate the word networking with like high pitch sales or like high-pressure stress involved with that, and no one wants to be involved with that.

But the key is when you’re a relationship networker, it’s a different one-on-one conversation that really can grow. And it’s not something you do just one time. I’m a relationship networker with people I might meet several times in a month, virtually or offline, because we still are building bridges and relationships for years that still pay off. So, by doing this a little differently, I think it would make the term networking less awkward for folks.

Mac Prichard:

I want to get to the art and strategy of being a relationship networker. But before, one last question, you mentioned one of the myths about networking is people often associate it with sales or high-pressure tactics. Are there any other common myths about networking that you want to bust before we talk about how to network well?

Francina Harrison:

Sure, particularly with relationship networking. I often will tell folks that even, let’s say, you’re ready to do this, and you’re at some event or someplace where people are breaking bread and building relationships, the deal doesn’t happen at the networking event. It’s the place to start the collaboration, start the conversation. No, I’ve never closed a deal with someone I just met at a networking event.

So, this is the beginning. It’s the Genesis of, it’s the initiation of a relationship, and folks knowing who’s in the room, and knowing what to say when that question is asked of you. And then what should happen is, I have a little time period I ask people to do, then you continue. You follow up. There’s a way to engage that relationship.

And, again, whether you break bread together or you have an email conversation or things of that nature. In fact, I did a relationship connection using my friend’s LinkedIn with two people. One in Atlanta, one in New York City, and now they’re gonna get together, and they’ve exchanged telephone numbers, and they can have this wonderful conversation. It seems like there’s some great energy between the two of them, and that’s what it’s about.

Versus, me saying, oh, here’s his number. Here’s a card. Just call him. That’s not real relationship networking.

So, nothing happens that day. Well, it shouldn’t. But you have the opportunity to follow up and build up that bridge.

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. I’d like to take a break, and when we come back, I want to dig into relationship networking, what it is, and how to do it well. So, stay with us. When we return, Francina Harrison will continue to share her advice about how to build real relationships that work in your career.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Francina Harrison.

She’s the CEO of The Career Engineer®.

Her company helps career changers, job seekers, and entrepreneurs.

Fancina is also the author of A Mind to Work: The Life and Career Planning Guide for People Who STILL Need To Work.

She joins us from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Now, Francina, before the break, we were talking about the importance of building relationships when you’re looking for work and what a difference they can make, especially when it comes to referrals when you’re looking for that next job.

And you’ve talked a number of times about what you call real relationship networking. Unpack that for us, Francina. Why do you like that phrase? Tell us more.

Francina Harrison:

Well, actually, one of my previous clients, I have a network, a community for networkers, because obviously, I want people to be real relationship networkers. But we were doing something, and I slipped up and said, “Yeah, this is REAL-lationships,” and I just paused on the word real. And we were like, that’s it. That’s exactly what we want folks to do.

So, the difference between what we call at TCE a real relationship networking and traditional is it’s not about prospecting or hustling. Because sometimes, you get predators and scam artists at these little networking spaces, and that’s what makes people feel awkward. But it’s about being real, telling the truth, knowing who you are and what you bring. And that’s really the unique thing.

And I know business entrepreneurs always do this. But I really want individuals, job seekers, job changers, college graduates, students, and anyone coming back into the workforce to take the career entrepreneur mindset. Being real, telling the truth. But the most important part with relationship networking is you’ve got to know who you are and what you bring.

So, I took that what we used to call the elevator speech technique. But we made it to what we call a TCE relationships intro that has three simple parts. And so, it’s a way to make that conversation a little bit more human and successful.

Mac Prichard:

And listeners probably picked up on this, but when you say TCE, you’re talking about The Career Engineer.

Francina Harrison:

I am, yeah. TCE, The Career Engineer. They just, TCE and I answer to it. I answer to just about everything. But I definitely answer to TCE.

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. Now, tell us how paying attention to those three ideas is gonna help you in your job search.

Francina Harrison:

So, for example, if we’re, let’s say we’re somewhere doing a collaboration. The way I look at the relationship networking is I ask people just three simple things. When we’re entering a space or a room, and to me, networking could be there’s two people in the room. I call it a networking event. As long as it’s someone other than you.

Who you are, what you have, and what you want. And believe it or not, those three things are some of the hardest things for me to get career professionals to know. Who you are, what you have, and what you want.

Mac Prichard:

Why is that hard for people to get clear about those three things?

Francina Harrison:

I’ll hear, I just want a job. I’ll work anywhere. It doesn’t matter. I’m like, no, it does matter.

So, when I say you’ve got to know who you are this is where the career seeker or changer, and these are like ten-second sound bytes. Maybe this is a thirty-second introduction, maybe a sixty-second. But, who you are.

So, for example, I am Francina Harrison, the career engineer. Don’t get anxious. Get prepared. We help people to love Monday mornings.

Right? I mean, that could be me being whoever I am. That is the way I will introduce myself.

There are some, like, someone’s an IT person, or they’re in education. They’re like, well, I’ve just been a teacher for ten years. That’s all I do. That’s not who you are.

I want folks to know their gifts, their talents and find a way in ten seconds to twenty seconds. And this is something you’ll practice at home in front of the mirror. So, when someone says who you are, you’re able to give them a little powerful sound byte.

This second part of what you have, that’s a ten to twenty second, what do you bring to the table? Again, you may just have a moment to – someone may say, hey, tell me something about yourself. What brings you here?

So, what do I have? I bring over fourteen years of helping people to know who they are and what they bring, and we help folks to make sure they maximize our motto, don’t get anxious, get prepared. But if I have over ten years of IT or I’m an award-winning project manager, I would definitely make sure I share that in my, what do I have. Right?

And then, of course, what do you want? That’s the biggest blur for folks. I have so many, I mean, master’s degree, PhD, professional training. What do you want? I don’t know.Well, I don’t know doesn’t work well in relationship networking.

So, what do you want? I’m looking for access into this name of this company. Or do you know John Joe, who happens to be the manager of the supply train department at thus and so?

So, that requires doing work so that, as you’re being able to introduce yourself, folks get a glimpse of what you bring to the table, who exactly you’re looking for. Trigger name, trigger of the company, that type of thing.

So, it’s something folks have to practice. But when you do that, folks look around and go, wow. This is not just someone who says, well, I just moved to town. I just got here. I don’t really know what I want. But, hey, can you help me find a job? That’s not relationship networking. That’s something else.

Mac Prichard:

So when you know the answer to those three questions, who you are, what you offer, and what you want, you talked about the benefits. One of them is that people, when you’re specific about what you ask for, people can hope you.

What are some of the other benefits that happen when you are able to say in thirty seconds or less the answer to those three questions?

Francina Harrison:

I mean, it wows the people in the room. And it also makes folks know you’ve done your homework. That you’re not; your competition is maybe having some average response. You’ve put some time into this.

And the next step is, really? Tell me more. Or, you know what? I know someone at a certain company. Can we chat? Or can we then exchange low-tech or high-tech connectivity?

Of course, LinkedIn profiles should be wild and everything else you have. But guess what? Your phone is a great tool. It works.

Do you happen to have your, I call it, your brochure? Also known as a resume. Maybe a PDF on your phone if someone asks for it. Maybe you can submit that, and then, hey, let’s follow up and do a conversation.

So, after folks actually say who they are, what they have, and what they want, I do have what I call my TCE must-haves. If you’re gonna be a relationship networker, you’ve got to do the following things.

You’ve got to, of course, show up. You’ve got to step up. And then you have to follow up.

So, if you meet someone, maybe there’s two people. I’m not looking to meet three hundred people. That’s impossible. But if I know who’s in the room and I kind of strategically make sure I’m in that right circle, or I introduce myself with my relationship’s intro. My next step is to get an aha. This is someone we can have a great conversation.

Show up. Step up. Follow up. Follow-up being the key. Because most folks network, get excited and forget, and don’t follow up, and then there you go, we’re right back at zero again.

Mac Prichard:

Why does follow-up make such a big difference?

Francina Harrison:

Because that’s initiative. That shows initiative. A lot of times, traditional networkers will wait for that other person you met to give you an aha moment to call you.

No, relationship networkers, we’re gonna follow up within – twenty-four hours is great, forty-eight hours. I give it to you by email. How about ask the person how they would like to be connected to?

We’re gonna make sure we keep that thing fresh because this is about access and opportunity. So, yeah, follow-up is the biggest. When folks don’t get what they want, I often can tell. Did you follow up? And the answers like, was I supposed to?

Absolutely. In this economy, this day, the way things are, it’s that follow-up peson that gets recognized. So, follow-up is critical.

Mac Prichard:

Many people might struggle with coming up with the answers to those first three questions that you posed, who you are, what you offer. What exercise do you take your clients through, Francina, to help them get the answers to those questions?

Francina Harrison:

Self-assessment, being aware, and practice. So, when someone, for example, if someone has a beautiful, wonderful, wild resume, or their LinkedIn profile is so dynamic, and it’s great on the screen, and it’s great on paper. But then, when I talk to that person, I don’t get the wow, I get the won’t.

I’m like, use that piece of paper, or use that digital profile of yours, start knowing who you are. Because it’s great that you had someone write something wonderful, but it’s gotta be what I call flesh to you. And I talk about that a lot in the book, that the way you speak, the words you use.

If you can get the opportunity of someone saying, tell me more. That sounds exciting. Who can I connect you with? You have got to practice that thing.

But you’ve got to also look at your brand and figure out, what do I want? Or what do I don’t? And actually one of the steps I will tell folks if they really aren’t sure. Well, I’m not sure where I fit.

Well, tell me the three things you don’t want to do. Share with me the three environments you don’t want to work in. Share with me the three management styles that no way someone can offer you a billion dollars, and you still would say no. I mean, that means that much of an importance to you. Start from there, at least, with what you don’t want or the kind of environment you don’t want to be in.

But to have that someone looking at their performance, their accomplishments, and their leadership and picking two, three, or four of those things as they get ready to do this. So, yes, this isn’t a quick, fast narrative. It’s a real relationship networking. But the product is the person.

So if you don’t have a relationship with yourself, knowing your gifts, your talents, your performance, and accomplishments, it’s gonna be very difficult to communicate that to folks who don’t know you. So, yes, it starts with self, and it takes practice.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Francina. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Francina Harrison:

We have launched our third edition of the book A Mind To Work. We’re actually calling it 3.0, and some of the things I talked about, guess what, definitely in the book. How people can know who they are and what they bring. At The Career Engineer, like I said, our motto is simple. Don’t get anxious. Get prepared in your career life. And we help entrepreneurs, employers, and employees to do just that. Know who they are, what they bring, get the courage and confidence to go out there and go get it.

Mac Prichard:

I know that listeners can learn more about you, your company, and your services, as well as your book, by visiting your website,, and you also invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn, and as always, I hope when they do reach out to you that they’ll mention they heard you on Find Your Dream Job.

Now, Francina, given all of the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to build real relationships that work in your career?

Francina Harrison:

Keep it authentic, and genuine. You are more than enough. You have gifts and talents. Stop burying them. Let the world see you shine. So it starts with you. Believe in yourself, and you’ve got this. That’s what I want folks to know.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Katy Byrtus.

She’s a creative recruiter at M+P who connects candidates with jobs.

Katy is also on the team at Talent Career Coaching, where she helps clients with job searches.

Many candidates looking for work focus exclusively on finding and applying for jobs.

If all you’re doing is sending out applications, says Katy, you’re making your search longer and harder than it needs to be.

Join us next Wednesday when Katy Byrtus and I talk about why your network matters in your job search.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List.

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.