Find Your Dream Job, Episode 319:
Why You Need to Network Intentionally, with Justin Chin
Airdate: October 27, 2021
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.
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Networking, especially during a job search, can be overwhelming.
Even basic questions – who to contact, what to ask for, and how you measure your progress – can challenge the most successful professionals.
Justin Chin is here to talk about why you need to network intentionally and how to do it.
Justin is a leader in career and workforce development, and he’s the director of high school connections at Lane Community College.
He joins us from Eugene, Oregon.
Justin, let’s start with some definitions. What do you mean by networking intentionally?
What I mean by networking intentionally, Mac, is to really look at your deep connections with the folks that you’ve either worked with, that you have supervised, and quite honestly, and I think this is most important, those people that you are secondarily connected to. So who are those people that in your network that are connected with other folks? And oftentimes, we’ve seen this in job search; it’s not that one-to-one connection that gets you into a position. It’s that secondary, sometimes the tertiary connection, that lands job seekers into new roles.
In your experience – because you’ve worked with students and other job seekers for years, Justin – do people know about the value of these secondary connections, people that you know former – coworkers and supervisors and staff they’ve managed?
No, honestly, Mac, no. This is something that so many folks overlook, and this goes into the whole application process. You know, job seekers will flood the market with their application, with their resume, with all these documents out there that just end up going nowhere. And part of intentional networking is finding those folks with insight and knowledge who are either a, in that company, b, in a similar position, or honestly, sometimes, with a competitor. With an outsider, you know, that understands some of those finer inner workings of that company or that position.
I want to talk about how to reach out to those people. But before that, Justin, let’s step back and talk about these secondary connections again. What I’m hearing you say is people may turn to friends and family, but it’s these people whose ties to you may not be as strong that can be invaluable. What stops job seekers from reaching out to former coworkers or past supervisors, or people they’ve managed in the past?
Quite honestly, Mac, it’s, some of it is fear. Some of its pride. I think as job seekers, we, especially as job seekers who have been there, done that, seasoned professionals, or professionals who are ready to make that transition, we’re too proud, so many times, to ask for help, and part of intentional networking is hitting pause on that sense of pride for some folks. For some folks, especially women and professionals of color, it’s really challenging those engrained feelings and those engrained lessons that we all, that folks of color and women have to navigate about vulnerability. And so intentional networking for, on one side, is dipping into your LinkedIn account. It’s dipping into friends, family, coworkers, folks that you’ve supervised. Intentional networking for women and professionals of color, it’s an act of revolution to push back against those things that we’ve been indoctrinated to not be vulnerable.
How do you see the women and people of color, but job seekers as a whole, get over that pride, overcome that pride and that fear? What do they do, Justin?
Part of it is just taking that big jump, and you know, a calculated big jump, and reaching out to one familiar face, reaching out to someone within your network that you can honestly, bona fide identify as a connector. Someone who’s got that good stickiness that is connected to different industries, different folks. It doesn’t have to be a big whig. It doesn’t have to be someone like my mentor, who is, you know, that’s what he does day in and day out. But it’s someone that has that connection and that stickiness. So, you know, whether you want to call it people skills or soft skills or essential employability skills, it’s someone that is connected.
Are those people hard to find or to identify? What do they do that makes them stand out?
You’re asking the million-dollar question here. So when we look at connectors, these people, in my experience, seem to rise to the top. These are those people that have that ah-ha, that sheen to them that says this is someone that’s connected to a lot of different pieces. They don’t have to know every industry intimately. They don’t have to know the skill set intimately. But they have to have that reputation, that pizazz that gets them, you know, at least a chance to be seen and to be heard.
And sometimes, Justin, I wonder if you’ve had this experience; I’ve met people like that, and sometimes, often, they don’t have fancy credentials or big job titles, but they’re good at relationships, aren’t they?
Absolutely, and when I talk about connectors, Mac, you really just, you know, debunked everything I said here in a good way. It’s people who are good relationship managers, and so I think about the work of – oh, his name just passes me through right now – Malcolm Gladwell, where he talks about connectors, people who are always going back and working with those people, those relationships skills, and that’s what intentional networking is really about. Is getting involved with people who are connectors, who have those people skills, those relationship skills.
It’s, when we look at building that network of folks and the intentional networking, we’re really looking for, not just mentors, people that you can bounce ideas off of. We’re looking for champions. We’re looking for sponsors. People who can identify your specific skill set. Who value your specific skill set. But even more importantly, to have that ability to communicate your skillset with a potential employer, with another informational interview, with someone that can get you one step, or half a step closer, to that career that you’re looking for.
Well, let’s talk more about this person because I know one of the steps you recommend to take when networking intentionally is to find a mentor, and what you’ve just described, that could be a mentor to a job seeker, couldn’t it?
Absolutely, absolutely. I don’t think it’s just one mentor all the time; I think sometimes, that can come in a series of multiple mentors. So one thing that I’ve shared with my students, with the people that I help with job search, is I say, “Find your A-team.” Find that person that can give you the honest to goodness truth. It could be not fun to navigate, but it’s gonna be honest. Find that person that is gonna always be your cheerleader. That could be a partner, a spouse; that could be a professor, that could be a manager. Find that person that’s gonna be a naysayer. Someone that’s gonna poke and prod every decision that you make in a constructive and positive way, and lastly, find that person who has data. Data drives everything. Data will help a job seeker to realize and understand, is this a shift that I want to make, given where I am professionally? Is now that time, data-informed, for me to make that jump?
So build a team-
Build a team. Absolutely build a team. Build your A-team.
And look for people with different sets of skills. What do you ask these people to do, Justin, and how do you approach them?
Mac, in my experience, it’s always been being very upfront and very transparent with these people and saying, “Mac, I am looking to make a career change. I’ve worked with you for so many years. As a colleague, you understand my work habits. Can you help me navigate this from your place of power and advantage? Can you give me that honesty back on what I need to hear and understand about myself as a job seeker? What are my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for growth, and what are the threats to my success?”
A standard SWAT analysis in so many ways, and so it’s being very transparent, and those people that you trust and that you can lean on are gonna see that vulnerability, and when folks see vulnerability, nine times out of ten, they’re gonna jump in where they can to help.
Well, I want to pause right here, Justin, and take a break.
Please stay with us. When we come back, Justin Chin will continue to share his advice on why you need to network intentionally and how to do it.
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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 Justin Chin.
He’s a leader in career and workforce development, and he’s the director of high school connections at Lane Community College.
Justin, before the break, we were talking about why you need to network intentionally and how to do it. And I loved your point about having the A-team, and how to approach members of your A-team, and different things they might do for you, and what to ask for.
What kind of time commitment are we talking about here, Justin? Is this a life sentence, or are you just looking for one or two meetings with the members of this group?
You know, Mac, that’s a really good question. So you know, in my personal work in career services and what I do in high school connections, oftentimes, mentorship can be transactional. It can be two times, three times, four times, five times, you know, to whatever knowledge that we need to get you to whatever point.
But the important question, the important question for job seekers, is this one here – and I’ll say it twice. Who else should I talk to? Again, who else should I talk to? And that is that organic feel about mentorship. There is no script to it where, “Mac, I’m gonna mentor you for the next five sessions and call it good.” If that’s the case, then I’m gonna go hire a headhunter to work with. But in mentorship, if it’s authentic, if it’s relational, this is something where a good mentor oftentimes turns into a sponsor. Where their relationship skills, their people skills, their connectivity is gonna lead you to someone else within their network. And in the same breath, you know this is that opportunity for proteges, people being mentored, to hand something back off to those members of the A-team.
So there is no timeline, you know, whether it’s one session or five sessions, a lifetime sentence or not. This is that organic feel, where it is that gauge that the job seeker has to have to say, “Am I getting what I need?” If not, “who else should I be speaking to?”
It really comes back to the reason why you want to work with this person. Maybe it’s technical information, maybe it’s support or introductions, but there is a reason, isn’t there, Justin?
Absolutely, there is a reason. And so, one of the things that I keep telling job seekers, whether they’re students or whether they’re, you know, Xers or late millennials, as they look at that next career shift, is identify an insider. Who is someone that understands what this position, this company, this geographical location is? Tell us what your – how you have navigated this place. What are your feelings? And it’s that secondary, tertiary feel, that is, oftentimes – that comes out as unfiltered that matters so much.
I’m glad you brought that up because you mentioned in our first segment the importance of finding someone inside an organization, and to your point, you’re trying to find people who either have the job you want or work at the company or organization where you want to be or perhaps live and work in the city where you want to move to. Why is it important to find someone like that, and when you do connect with them, what do you hope to learn from them?
On the most basic level, things that I am looking for, you know, as I work with job seekers, I tell my folks to look at this dichotomy in so many ways, and it’s not an either-or. But the question that I coach my folks that I work with is, what are your lumps and what are the lessons that you’ve learned from those lumps?
So what are those places that we need to understand about company culture? So how could my personality, the experiences and, the skillsets that I bring in my vision, cause areas of friction, and how do I navigate that friction? What is the company’s blind spots, and in those blind spots, those lumps, those blind spots, how can I help that company, as a job seeker, as a potential employee, smooth out those bumpinesses, smooth out that friction, and make things run smoother?
And so, as we identify insiders, we’re gathering intelligence all the time. What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for growth, and threats to success for that company? And how can we, as a viable candidate, help to resolve some of those squishinesses?
We talked in the first segment about the importance of reaching out to these secondary connections, and again, these could be, as you said, people inside a company or who have a job that you want to do. If you don’t know people like that, how do you get connected to them if they aren’t part of your secondary network? How do you get introduced or persuade these people to meet and talk with you?
One of the things that I tell every job seeker is your LinkedIn; if you are serious about job search, your LinkedIn profile needs to be something that you invest into every week, every month, every six months. I tell the folks that I work with, you need to be pausing and spending a weekend, eight hours in a weekend, to update your LinkedIn profile. To really go in there and add different accomplishments, add different skills that you’ve gained over that last six months in your current position. This is that time for you, if you are actively job seeking, or not actively job seeking, to look for those companies, those organizations, those careers that you are interested in, and find out who those people are. LinkedIn will do that work for you, and now, it falls squarely into the job seeker’s hands. Are you comfortable taking that vulnerable step forward and asking for help?
And how do you see people make that request successfully? Because you’ve updated your LinkedIn page. You’ve identified some people you don’t know who have the job you want or work at the company where you want to be. But you don’t know them. So how do you see people reach out successfully, Justin?
Mac, two ways that I’ve seen people do this, and one is just flat-out blind faith, you know, which is scary to do. The other one that is more successful and the one that I would push all your listeners to do, Mac, is to get that warm introduction from somebody that you’re already connected to. Give them the heads up.
“Mac, I’m looking to relocate to Portland. This is the company that I want to work for. I saw that you’re connected with this person. Can you help me get a warm introduction?”
And once you get that introduction, what do you do with it when you reach out to that person, and they agree to a meeting? What do you hope to get from that conversation?
I’m looking honestly, Mac, for fifteen minutes of your time. Because time, unfortunately, in the professional world, is money. Can I get fifteen minutes of your time Mac, on Zoom, on a telephone call, in a different world, with you for a cup of coffee? And can you tell me about these three things?
And those three things that you decide to have that conversation on are up to the job seeker. And that’s really just honoring time and honoring expertise, and just listening. And then at the end of that relationship, giving this person that you’ve asked help for, you know, leaving that table open. “Ubi est locus pro quinque ibi est locus sex;” where there’s room for five, there’s room for six—leaving space for them to ask for knowledge. Because I think mentorship intentional networking is about relationships. It’s about reciprocity. It’s about reciprocal relationships.
Another point I know that is important to you about intentional networking is that, once you get the role you want, whether it’s a job or you’re in the company where you hoped to work, or you’ve moved to that new city, you really think it’s important, as an intentional networker, to help others. Tell us more about that and why that’s important, Justin.
Absolutely. So one motto that I’ve always lived by, you know, as a little bit established professional of color, is one up, one over, one below. And so, for many job seekers, there is nobody that has blazed this same trail. So as a trailblazer, it is our role to help the people that are beside us and very, very, very, importantly, to help that next generation of professionals and job seekers, who will inevitably replace us in the workforce. That is how we build a healthy ecosystem. So I always say, one up, one over, and one below.
Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Justin. Now, tell us what’s next for you?
What’s next for me is continuing to build pathways for young folks and established professionals to enter the workforce. So in my role right now at Lane Community College with high school connections is definitely focused on, you know, middle school through high school students to get into higher-ed and into careers. But in the same breath, Mac, it’s to find those opportunities to help those folks who are working in education, who are working in other industries, pivot into that next step.
Terrific. I know people can learn more about your work at Lane Community College and your services there by connecting with you on LinkedIn, and if they do reach out to you on LinkedIn, I hope they mention they heard you on Find Your Dream Job.
Now, Justin, given all the useful tips you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you need to network intentionally and how to do it?
Find your A-team, Mac. Find your A-team.
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Next week, our guest will be Ryan Yip. He’s an executive coach who helps you find your best career fit, create your personal brand, and organize your job search.
You need to prepare for a job interview. So you review lists of common questions, and you practice your answers.
That’s a good start, says Ryan. But you also need to be ready for the questions not on your list.
Join us next Wednesday when Ryan Yip and I talk about how to answer any interview question.
Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.
This show is produced by Mac’s List.
This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.