The good news is that the people who know you best, your family and friends, really want to help you. The bad news is that many of them may have known you since you were a snot-nosed brat and, as you well know, many of them still think of you that way – which makes productive networking difficult.
Case in point: after fourteen books and millions of copies, my family is still genuinely surprised that I know to come in from the rain. As adults and professionals we are different people from the ones our family and old friends have always known. This is an important consideration in working out how you can best help your extended family help you.
Family and friends are far from stupid, but unlike the contacts in your professional networks, they probably don’t have a full grasp of what you do and who you are in your professional life. When it comes to networking and harvesting useful leads from friends and family over the holiday, you will confuse them if you treat them the same way you do professional colleagues.
However, with the right guidance, your loved ones can and will cast a wide net and come up with leads for you. Even if they have nothing to do with your professional world, they know people who know people, especially that crazy old Aunt Aggie.
Here are the steps to help your family and friends help you:
1. Think carefully about what you do for a living and put it in a one- or two-sentence description that even Aunt Aggie can grasp: “I am a computer programmer; I write the instructions that help computers run.”
2. Think carefully about the job you want, the kind of company you will work for, and the kind of people you need to talk to, and then don’t tell them because they won’t get it. Instead, put it in a way anyone, even Aunt Aggie can grasp: “I’m looking for a job with another computer company. It would be great if you or your friends know anyone who works with computers.” Keep it non-specific.
3. Give them the information you need to get in touch with these people: “I’m not looking for someone to hire me; I’m looking for people who work with computers to ask their advice.”
Breaking your networking needs into just three simple statements gives your immediate circle something they can really work with. You can do this casually over the barbecue and then spend your time having fun and being fun.
Crazy Aunt Aggie? I had one in England, a dear-sweet-crazy-bats-in-the-belfry old lady, and many years ago at a family gathering she heard about my first book and that I was visiting to find an English publisher. Turned out that Crazy old Aunt Aggie went to school with a girl who married a man and they had a son, “Little Jamey”, who was head of a major publishing company. That book has now been in print in U.K. for twenty-six years. Keep it simple, and have fun over the holidays.
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