The Worst Thing to Say When You’re Networking for a New Job

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When you’re looking for a job, it’s easy to feel desperate, and your first instinct may be to announce this to the world, to let as many people as possible know in the hopes that one of them will lead you to your dream job. Or at least a job.

But “I’m looking for a job” is the worst thing you can say when you’re networking. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking for a job, just that you don’t want to use those words.

“I’m looking for a job” has a negative tone, which affects both you and whomever you’re talking to. And in order for a networking conversation to be effective, both people need to have a positive mindset.

Here’s why saying “I’m looking for a job” brings the conversation down:

1 - You’ll be flooded with suggestions. Although advice is almost always offered with good intentions, too much of it can really mess you up if you’re not crystal clear on exactly what you want to do. When you’re bombarded with advice before you have a direction, you can start to doubt everything you’re doing or not doing, which will likely lead to paralysis.   What you need when you’re in search mode is clarity and focus. And if you already have both clarity and focus, then you shouldn’t be broadcasting your search; you should be carefully choosing who you talk to.

2 - It puts a burden on the other person, especially if you think you want to work where they work. If you say, “I’m looking for a job” to someone who might be in a position to hire you or recommend you, it makes the other person feel awkward really fast. They have to start evaluating whether or not they could hire or recommend you and feel pressure to make a fast decision based on limited information, all without saying something rude to you. When there’s a place or a position you’re interested in, always, always start the conversation by saying, “I’m interested in learning more about” whatever it is you think might be a fit.

3 - It makes you less attractive to employers. Most recruiters and hiring managers want to hire people who are already employed. That may sound like it’s an unfair stigma, but it’s true in practice: the easiest way to find a job is when you have a job. Obviously, you don’t want to pretend to be employed when you’re not, because lying rarely works out well.

However, what you can and should do is start thinking about yourself not as someone who just wants a job but someone who’s looking for the right one. This is why we encourage our clients to volunteer or take on passion projects when they’re exploring their options. The phrase “looking for a job,” implies desperation about something you don’t have. Being able to talk enthusiastically about what you do have going on, what you’re engaged in, and why you’re taking the time to find the right position will draw people to you, including potential employers.

4 - It makes you less attractive to yourself. Saying those words puts you in a supplicant mode and casts you as someone who’s relying on others to help them. Re-frame it – you’re exploring opportunities so that you can make sure you find the right match. Changing the way you talk about it will change the way you think about it.

Changing the way you think about this process is critical if you truly want to find the right fit. First, get clear on what matters to you when it comes to your next step. Then, when you do begin talking to people, be sure that you let them know you’re exploring your options and doing your research before you start applying for positions. If the conversation goes well and they think you might be a good fit, you won’t have to ask about open positions, because they will invite you to apply. And once you’re invited to apply, you already have an advantage over the other candidates. 

If you (or someone you know) have recently graduated from college and are trying to launch or pivot your professional career, ArcVida can help.  Register for our free trial today.  

Published on 12/8/2018