Older Job Seekers Must Inventory Their Contacts


Job seekers know that networking is the most important activity in any career search. Meeting people to gain access to other people and valuable information propels the job seeker closer to the eventual opportunity even when the path can seem long or circuitous. The sum of one's contacts and relationships is known as social capital. The value of that capital increases as the number of contacts grow and the quality of relationships is enhanced. To develop social capital as the foundation of an effective job search, one must begin with a thorough personal contacts inventory.


"It is not what you know but who you know" is a time-worn adage about workplace and career success. Many misunderstand this cliche to mean that those who are well-connected have undeserved opportunity bestowed on them without effort or justice. In practice, anyone can increase the value of their social capital from their present baseline. Older workers have an advantage since they have met and interacted with more people in their lives. The challenge is to organize and access those contacts to maximum advantage, especially considering a lifetime of relationships.


The purpose of a contact inventory is to organize the list of one's relationships in one place, to serve as a tool for prioritizing networking outreach and to serve as a motivational exercise for the job seeker. The idea is to write down literally everyone you know who might be directly or indirectly useful to your job search even in the remotest possible scenario. Start with an open computer document, a sheet of paper and your current source of contact management. For most people, this will be a smartphone, a "little black address book" or email system. Also gather school yearbooks, company, church or school directories, team rosters and even old calendars. Finally, open browser pages to your accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even Snapchat. From all these resources you will begin to compile a very long list of names.


List everyone in your contact file no matter how obscure. Even names for which you can't recall faces or people you can recall but whose names escape you ("that guy at the gym who keeps talking about his job at the software company") go on the list. To keep the exercise from becoming overwhelming, allow yourself to indulge in a bit of "Whatever happened to so and so?" detective work. Don't spend too much time on any one person, though. This is a brainstorming exercise and both speed and top-of-mind reactions are the keys.

One effective technique is to work in reverse chronology to your life. Start with your current life today. Who do you know from your current or last active job? How about your personal life? Your children's parents; your first, second and third tier friends; friends from sporting or hobby activities; and members of your church or temple all go on the list.For each person, write their name, profession and company (if you know), how you know them and what they might offer. If you don't know some information, just skip that box and move on. This is an exercise that you want to attack energetically but your list will not be perfect. You will forget people and that is alright. You don't want to let perfectionism prevent you from creating a very long list.And so on, until you list hundreds of people. You will tally so many people that you will not even imagine how you might get to all of them in a year of networking meetings and calls. This is good. You are not yet done with the process.

Next, give a priority ranking for both how well you know each person and how useful you think they might be at the start of your job search. For example, a job searcher might annotate each of her contacts with a "1" for a close contact, a "2" for a less active contact or a "3" for more of an acquaintance. Likewise, a presumed to be well-connected resource might be an "A," a less known commodity a "B" and a more random contact a "C."


Finally, run your list by your spouse or significant other and close friends. They will help you remember people you forgot you knew and challenge you on your priority rankings.

As you work this exercise for many hours or even days, you will start to realize that you know many more people than you initially considered. You will discover that with these people lie the foundational asset of your job search, access to information and other people. Connected to the people you know are thousands of other people who are looking to solve their talent requirements with someone like you. If you make the effort to find them, you will be rewarded with the career opportunity you deserve.


By: Peter A. Gudmundsson

Source: money.usnews.com


Peter A. Gudmundsson is the president & CEO of Hire-Maturity LLC, a company that helps employers engage with high quality talent that is mature, experienced and capable. Until recently, Gudmundsson was CEO of RecruitMilitary, a company that conducts over 100 career fairs in more than 50 cities, manages the largest veteran online job board and published Search & Employ magazine in digital and print formats. Most of Gudmundsson’s career has been dedicated to leadership in media, education and intellectual property-intensive businesses including the Dropout & Truancy Prevention Network, Design Guide Publishing and Primedia Inc. (KKR’s media company). Gudmundsson is a regular media contributor and has appeared on CSPAN, multiple television and radio programs and has published opinion pieces in Forbes, The Washington Post, The Hill, The Christian Science Monitor and many other periodicals. Gudmundsson is also the author of The Veteran Hiring Leader’s Handbook and Not Done Yet: A College to Career Transition Guide for Parents. A former U.S. Marine field artillery officer, Gudmundsson is a graduate of Harvard Business School (MBA) and Brown University (BA in History with Honors). Follow him on Twitter @pagudmundsson or connect with him on LinkedIn.