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Remember, success is two job offers on the table.

It’s all about relationships.  Relationships matter.  Your investment needs to be a give and take.  When you need a job is NOT the time to seek out and build relationships.  Weekly investment in relationship building is critical so that you have a substantial, varied group of people who will know you well, take your call, go out of their way for you, and would celebrate with you when you are successful.  These people are your connectors, advocates, cheerleaders,  door-openers, and references that you are a great person worthy of being a part of someone’s team.

Has this ever happened to you?  I was sitting at my desk deep in the middle of writing an evaluation report.  The phone rings.  “Sumption and Wyland,” I said.  “How can I help you.”

The caller launched into a common request.  “ You are the person to whom I wish to speak.  You are acting as a reference for Jane Doe (protecting the guilty).  Do you have time now to answer some questions?”

Before thinking, I blurted out; “is she looking for a job AGAIN!  I haven’t seen her in years!”  Immediately I was mortified.  This is no way to be at my best and do my best on behalf of fellow colleague.

Before you start shaming me, let me explain.  I had known Jane Doe for about five years.  I worked closely with her.  I liked her and knew her to be a stellar programmer.  She left my organization and I joyfully said yes when she sought my willingness to act as a reference.

I never heard from her after she got into the new job.  A year later, I got the reference call.  Another new job opportunity hiring manager was calling.  I gave a high quality reference.  Another 18 months went by and it happened again.  This time I was  less than enthusiastic but I gave a good reference.  I don’t know if she got those jobs.  She never reached out to me.  I still feel mortified when I tell the story.  I want to do good work.  I want to help people.  I want to sound articulate and smart.  This experience took all that away from me.

Cultivate an Intentional Network

I recommend an intentional practice of identifying and investing in relationships with 20 or so people across the bands of your life.  They may be from your current /former workplaces, Chamber of Commerce/service club groups, church, college alums, etc.  These 20 people with naturally evolve into your life, it you are intentional in letting them in.  They will be people you keep in touch with, seek advice from, and otherwise build and grow understanding and support.  These people will reach out to you and you will naturally want to help them navigate a challenge or provide other support.

If you have this group cultivated in your network, they will be natural connections when you need help to look for a career move, need an immediate job opportunity, or find yourself seeking wisdom on a career related challenge.  When you have been laid off, they will take your call.  They will give you advice.  Some will make calls for you.  Some will have warm or hot leads for you.  They will agree to be a reference for you.

Never be in the spot where you need to say this… “Margaret, I haven’t talked to you in five years.  Would you be my reference for a job application I’m doing?” Or worse yet, not give a heads up at all.

Next week we are going to tease out the difference between a “job” and “career.”

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Leading in the Moment is produced by Margaret Sumption of Sumption & Wyland. Margaret has over thirty-five years of experience assisting hospitals, nonprofits, and other organizations move their business forward. She is a popular, dynamic, and effective speaker for nonprofit professionals, associations, and policy makers. Margaret is frequently sought after as an executive coach, serving leaders in hospitals and nonprofit organizations.
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