Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Job Search Extra Point: Christmas Cards (The Most Networking Time of the Year)

I hope the reports of the death of Christmas cards have been greatly exaggerated (Are Christmas cards still relevant in a digital world?). There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a waxing gibbous mailbox this time of year with missives of good tidings from family, friends, colleagues, classmates, your local (authorized) Jeep dealer, and folks you can’t believe you ever dated from Christmas Pasts (or in some cases, Christmases Passed Out).

According to the aforementioned report, folks are going digital for the annual family update in a large part to be green and to a larger (more honest part) to save money. Not the kind of news that causes sugar plums to dance in the head of the US Postmaster.

But as the late Sonny Bono once told us, the beat does go on. So like the typewriter, phone booth and Oldsmobile before it, the snail mail Christmas card is on the endangered species list. Even me, the traditionalist crank on this topic, broke bad and went 60%/40% digital on the nearly 300 holiday wishes that I sent out this year.

But I come to praise the Christmas card – not bury it (that’s the second time I artistically bludgeoned that Shakespeare quote for my own purposes in a post).

So while they are still relevant, I’d like to share my favorite Christmas card story and of course, there’s job search/networking tie-in.

Do you see what I see (me!)

So if you’ve been reading these posts (or have ever talked to me for more than 15 minutes), you know I am very passionate (bordering on obsessed) when it comes to networking. One of the themes I talk about in my coaching sessions with my clients is you never know where your contacts will take you. To illustrate this point, I tell the “Christmas Card Story”.2005Xmas

A few of years ago (the picture gives a clue to as just when), I sent this Christmas card out. As is my standard MO, in addition to the normal family and friends circle, I sent it to former and current co-workers/clients. So it is always part glad tidings and part direct mail campaign (that decade of CRM consulting sticks with you).  Of course, for the business connections, I also tucked in my business card and a personal note.

This Lycra® heavy (I also have an Under Armour® obsession) Christmas card campaign did well that year:

  • One former client who got the card needed some work done and was prompted to call and signed me with my new company (thanks Darren)
  • Another former client – the Carolina Panthers - unaware I had moved companies, requested a follow-on bid to a project I had done for them at my former company
  • Someone called me and offered me a job opportunity (even though I declined in the end, we had a few lunches and talked about it)
  • And – oh yeah - I met my wife

All I Wanted For Christmas Was Not Even on the List

One of the places this aforementioned card ended up was on the refrigerator of a 75 year old, long-time friend of the family (that I have known all my life). Of all the people in the world I had (up until that time) pictured being a Yenta in my life, it was not Lauretta (being a devout Catholic does makes it hard to be a Yenta, I would think).

The story goes that my future wife (Sara) was visiting Lauretta during the Christmas season. Lauretta noticed her looking at my Christmas card on the fridge and hatched the eHarmony like plan. Although she had known both my wife and me for all of our respective lives, it was not until that moment (and opportunity) that the light went on.

Even more shocking was – when my Mother called her long-time bachelor son and started “Lauretta knows someone that…”, I didn’t hang-up the phone. But applying the advice I also give my job search clients (always go on an interview if asked – even if you are not looking) to my dating life, it translated to “take every blind date”.  At the very worst (I thought), it would be a 60 minute dinner and if it wasn’t a fit, no harm done (as my wife will tell you – I can small talk for hours, and hours and hours…)

Sara and I met up a few weeks later (after I returned from a business trip in the Quad Cities – a certain kind of Hell that cannot be explained if you have not experienced it) and the rest is history (not to mention matrimony).

Put one foot in front of another

So – let’s review the object lessons of this Christmas Story:

  • Keep people advised of where you are and what you are doing.  In other words – if you are looking for a job, DON’T KEEP IT A SECRET.  Pride don’t pay the bills, Son.
  • You want people that know you connecting an opportunity to you. Be that a job they just heard about, a good plumber that can fix the leaky sink or (in my case) even a mate.
  • When opportunity knocks – you need to knock back. If someone sends you a job lead, your next steps are clear:
    • First - thank them (and I don’t care if you had already seen it on Monster earlier in the day). It so rude to reply “yes – I already saw that”. That motivates people to not help you and it’s just tacky, Jethro.
    • Second – if it is fit for you (even if you are happily employed), follow-up with it. Have coffee with the person. At the very worst, you might just have a new contact and peer in your field.  Or who knows, maybe even a date to the Sadie Hawkins Dance.
    • And – if it is not a fit for you, pass it on to someone you know who would be a better fit (and is in need of a job).
  • Make it your business to connect people to each other in this world. That’s how we get people working (and buying work boots). You never know where it may lead you.
  • Birch trees are prone to disease and don’t live long (I had to cut down the one that is pictured).

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