5 Unexpected Networking Sources for Finding Talent

December 15, 2014

When I was in college and entertaining hopes of being a book editor, I applied for entry-level publishing jobs all over New York. Cover letter after cover letter, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

One afternoon at my grandmother’s, I mentioned how the search was not yielding the results I hoped for. Or, in fact, any results at all.

Well, she said, you must call my best-childhood-girlfriend’s daughter – she works in publishing.

Underestimating my grandmother’s connections, I thanked her and took the number down.

Long story short: I never took advantage of that opportunity. Today, that same missed connection heads up a prestigious publishing division, whereas my career as a book editor never even left the station.

Unexpected sources in your existing network may turn out to be goldmines for sourcing new candidates.

If you keep your ears and eyes open, maintain a rich and varied network, and of course conduct yourself with integrity and professionalism, you may be surprised at how others can help you in recruiting fresh talent – when you least expect it.

Here are five examples:

Your fitness instructor:

Think about it: fitness instructors are constantly meeting people trying to improve their lives. They’re also incredibly motivational and inspiring people, ready to help push you and get you to your goals. That personal trainer, or your Saturday morning yoga teacher, likely knows clients who are trying to make changes in their lives – which could include a new job.

Next time you’re working out, why not put a bug in your fitness instructor’s ear that you’re on the lookout for a great candidate. He or she might just be able to play matchmaker.

Those smiling faces that cross your path daily:

Think of the barista, who gets your order right every morning. The cleaning person you greet when you leave at night. The parking lot attendant, who asks you if you had a good weekend. The train conductor, who waves your monthly pass away in recognition when he sees you daily on the 7 a.m. express.

For years, a lawyer friend said hello to his building’s groundskeeper every morning as he went into his office. The groundskeeper stopped him one morning and asked the lawyer if he could hire him for a personal legal matter. And then the lawyer hired away the groundskeeper years later, when he built his own office building and needed a maintenance supervisor. Their relationship was built on mutual trust and respect, and as such, they chose to do business together.

This is not to say that your favorite barista wants to leave her job – but she may know someone. And that’s really what it’s all about.

Your neighbors:

We have a neighbor who walks his dog down the street every day at dusk, with clockwork precision. An initial smile led to a hello, which led to a chat, and now we can while away the better part of a half hour catching up with him some early evenings.

We had him over on a recent weeknight for a barbeque, and during the conversation it emerged that he knew nearly the entire street – a glorious and old-fashioned show of neighbourliness. He also knew who worked in what career, who travelled for work frequently, who was selling up and moving away…you name it. Enough said.

Those appointments you book in yearly:

The dentist’s receptionist, who remembers your children’s names and where you went on vacation last.  Your car mechanic – the epitome of the great equalizer, who fixes vehicles old and new, expensive and entry-level.

These are touchstones in your life - people you don’t see with great frequency, but who have come to know you. You treat them well, give them your business, and they appreciate you as repeat customers. Make sure they know what you do for a living – and stay open to connections they may offer.

Generations that came before you:

The value of this group can’t go unmentioned, given my personal experience. And let’s not limit ourselves to grandparents – any older relative or long-time family friend will do. This includes your second grade teacher, your childhood soccer coach, your camp counsellor, or anyone else you remain in touch with that has known you a long time.

You don’t have to prove yourself to him or her – they already know you and respect you. They [surely] have your best interests in mind, and will do what they can to help you. And, they have a few decades on you, so their network is better than your own.

Don’t just indulge Grandpa when he tells you his friend down at the veteran’s hall has a newly graduated granddaughter looking for work. Give that lead the credence it deserves.

You never know.

Who’s the most unexpected connection in your network that rewarded you with a great lead on a candidate?

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*image by David Wright

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