Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Are You Effectively Leveraging Your Relationship Capital?

And, more importantly, do you have enough (relationship capital) to get you where you want to go?

I attended a meeting of a job club networking group this past week and at one point the facilitator asked the group of about 100 what challenges they were facing in their job search.

One well dressed articulate man in his 40's (I'll call him “Steve”) stood up and announced that he was attempting to break into Alternative Energy and asked if anyone knew anyone in the field who could help him. Steve's problem is a common challenge job seekers face not only when attempting to change fields but also in getting an interview  for an advertised job and or securing a project interview with a decision maker of a target company. In each instance the question (challenge) is the same:

How to identify who the decision maker is and get a meeting with him (or her).

Steve's request is a common networking tactic employed not only by job seekers but by anyone needing to identify a key decision maker and secure a meeting. In some cases such a request produces quick and effective results in the form of a contact or two. In this instance, however, the room of about 100 was silent. Apparently no one knew anyone in the Alt Energy Field. Or perhaps they did know someone but were reluctant to share the names of the people they knew with Steve... and the rest of the 100 who were present.

In an attempt to help, the facilitator pressed the audience to think hard, they must know someone, right? His request was also met with more silence. Spotting me in the audience and knowing that I have search clients in the Alt Energy Field the facilitator called me by name, saying: "How about you Dennis, surely you know someone you can refer to Steve." Since I was on the spot in front of all present I introduced myself and offered to help if I could and invited Steve to talk with me offline during the break.

Do I know people in the field who could help this man? Absolutely! Does anyone else in the room know anyone who could help? Most likely yes. So why didn't anyone, including me, just give Steve a name number and email address on the spot?

Well, I can't speak for the others but in my case I was not only reluctant but unwilling to share the names of any of my trusted relationships because they are exactly that... my trusted relationships, relationships that I have built carefully over time that I am not going to jeopardize by handing them over to someone I have never met before. I suspect the others in the room had similar reasons and perhaps other reasons as well, such as: they too were looking to "break into Alt Energy" and did not want Steve or any of the other 100 present competing with them.

You see, what Steve or anyone needs to do before I will share my trusted relationships with him is to develop a trusted relationship with me. Steve also would have been well served to make his request individually to me in private not in front of 100 other people I don't know (or trust).

The secret to identifying and establishing relationships with decision makers is to first build your relationship capital with their trusted relationships and to do so in person, one on one, not in a public setting.

What are you doing to build your relationship capital?

What strategies / techniques have you found most effective?

Please comment, I’d love to hear your success stories! And ”learning experiences” especially the entertaining ones. 

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