Lessons about how to win your job search are all around us if you are open to new messages. And sometimes, the message comes from the most unlikely of sources. Take pickleball and networking. Pickleball is a game for old people, right? Networking is something that just sales reps do, right? What do both questions have to do with securing that next job offer? A lot if you are willing to invest five minutes and read my thoughts.
About six months ago, I started playing the game of pickleball. Playing might not be the right word. Obsession might be a more accurate description. But it didn’t start that way. I had preconceived notions. I’m not that old. I’m not that retired. This humorous video about the five stages of pickleball gets it about right. From Stage 1 Judgement (“It’s like ping pong and badminton had a baby”) to Stage 5 Obsession, I am somewhere on that scale now. What is that I see in the game of pickleball, which just happens to be one of the fastest growing sports in America?
Low barrier to entry: It’s easy to get started. Equipment is inexpensive (easily under $100 to get started with everything you need to begin playing), and courts are free if you can play outdoors.
Easy learning curve: In less than 15 minutes, you can understand the rules, learn the basic skills, be playing the game, and have some fun.
Intellectual curiosity pays dividends: You can start with zero knowledge of the game, and just by asking questions and observing more experienced players, you can and will improve.
Community above all else: Old and young, male and female, all ethnicities and skill levels. You see them out there playing together and getting better together. USA Pickleball even has a simple tool to help you find your community.
So, what is the connection between networking and the ability to secure your next job? In my work with career coaching clients, we typically move easily through the first two phases of the job search process (Planning and Personal Branding). Then we get to the make-or-break phase of Personal Networking. This pivot point is where the proverbial rubber meets the road.
Some clients immediately embrace the networking process, earn referrals, get interviews, and land a job. Others are hesitant to start networking. Their rationale sounds a lot like those looking at pickleball through the wrong side of the fence. “It’s only for people trying to sell something. I’m an introvert and don’t like meeting new people. It’s hard to get rejected when people don’t want to talk to me.” My answer? You need to dive in, take that leap of faith, and start networking. It has all the same benefits as pickleball, and it will accelerate your path to the next job.
Low barrier to entry: It doesn’t cost anything to start building your job search network. You do need to commit to the process. Your network will not build itself in a week, and the referrals will take time to develop. But it doesn’t cost a dime beyond an investment of your time.
Easy learning curve: You don’t need a high-level degree to master networking. Eliminate your fear of rejection. Not everyone is going to agree to talk to you, and this is perfectly natural. Start with research to place a lot of prospects at the top of your networking funnel. With a dedicated focus, the good ones will find their way down your funnel and into your professional network.
Intellectual curiosity pays dividends: Networking is not a one-way street. Networking is not just “Can you help me find a job” meetings. Networking is 90% intellectual curiosity and learning more about other careers, individuals, and organizations. Master the skill of running an exploratory meeting. I always recommend my clients read this book to learn a simple process to run all your networking meetings.
Community above all else: Your job search network is not a monolithic group of individuals dedicated to life as your recruiter and your personal career success. Your job search network is a community of individuals that share a connection with you through targeted organizations, positions, associations, and career paths. And your network is like a house plant. It requires regular care and feeding for it to thrive and produce when you need it most.
If you are ready to embrace the importance of professional networking in your job search, here are a couple of resources I recommend (and not just because I produced them):
Take a look at my job search guidebook, “Selling You: The AdvantEdge Job Search Process™,” with a focus on Chapters 10 and 11, which center on the Personal Networking phase of the job search process.
Check out my job search video series with an emphasis on Episodes 16 through 18, that cover the entire job search networking process.
And when you have some free time, I recommend that you pick up a paddle and give pickleball a chance. With professional athletes like Drew Brees, LeBron James, Tom Brady, and Kevin Durant putting their money behind the sport, there’s definitely something in the air and fun waiting for you on the court.
Dan Troup is the author of the job search guidebook Selling You: The AdvantEdge Job Search Process™, available through multiple channels in Paperback and eBook formats. He is also the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.