You want to make it as easy as possible for people to help you and refer you in your job search. It’s human nature to help out our community because it helps our species survive. Problem is, most of the time people don’t know how best they can help, so they’d rather do nothing than to lead you in the wrong direction. If you don’t know what you want your connections don’t know what you want, either.
“So, what do you want to do?” If you’re looking for a job, you should hear this question just about every day. I believe that most people who ask this question want to help. If you were looking for water, what would you rather do: drill 100, one foot holes, or drill one, 100 foot hole? Many job seekers (and businesses) fail to achieve their goals because they cast too wide of a net and don’t specify their target demographic enough. This seems counterintuitive – traditional logic may say that if you want something (a job, a customer, etc) be as broad as possible to attract all possible matches. However, that doesn’t fit with how people actually think and make decisions. (You may have a few “holes” you’re digging but you get the point)
I’m looking to go into a fairly specific job market. Psychology/Neuroscience based consulting, somehow answering the question, “how can we do better business by understanding how the brain works?” is not a common company out there. (yet) There are around 15 neuromarketing companies in the world (http://www.neurosciencemarketing.com/blog/companies) and some other psychology based consulting/coaching firms I’m looking at. The crazy thing is, the more specifically I can describe my purpose the easier it is to get referrals. In the last 4 days, I’ve heard back and scheduled meetings from the owners of 3 companies as I have further narrowed down my focus.
The majority of people you run across in your job search will wish you the best of luck but probably won’t have any referrals to throw your way. However, if they do know someone in your chosen field, their memory recall will be easier and they’re more likely to give you someone to talk to.
Lastly – while it is great to have a solid idea of what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to interview for positions that may be a little outside of your target, especially if it’s a company you’re interested in. In the last two months, 2 good friends of mine have found solid, well paying, enjoyable careers that came from interviews for lower level positions. One friend, an engineer, interviewed for a installer position at a company he was interested in (basically a construction gig) and landed a Engineering Project Manager position supervising 4 installers. Another friend knew that he wanted to be in a sales-related customer service type of position, and did well enough in his interview to be sent up to the brand new digital marketing division of this company. For both of these friends, the pay for the jobs they landed is about twice as much as the jobs they originally applied and interviewed for. Remember that since many companies don’t immediately post their jobs online, you may uncover some hidden gems by accepting interviews slightly outside of your focus and being aware of opportunities for upward mobility. You probably need the interview practice anyway!