Enlarging Territories: Networking

January 15, 2020


An Old Testament Biblical verse from 1 Chronicles 4: 9-10 contains an otherwise obscure passage, the prayer of Jabez.  In it we learn:


“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.  His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’  Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying ‘Oh that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory!  Let your hand be with me, and keep me from the evil one.’  And God granted his request.”


Mentioned sparingly in the Bible, most know little of Jabez except that he was well respected. 


Author Bruce Wilkinson penned a book 20 years ago based on these five sentences, some embracing its message, others critical that it misleadingly fostered a missive of prosperity and wealth.  Regardless of your take, there are three words in these verses that I find absolutely fascinating.


“Enlarge my territory”


What do these words mean?  Do they suggest the acquisition of real estate?  Greater responsibility in vocation?  More resources and wealth?    


The first of a year can be a busy time for a Career Coach.  New Year’s resolutions for prospective clients might include seeking different employment or even an altogether new career.  They may be considering more challenging work assignments, relocation for any variety of reasons, or the opportunity for greater compensatory reward. 


Preparing for occupational change requires an assessment of our talents and skills, a review of the resume, and identification of employment targets, to be sure.  In spite of our planning and searching, however, the reality is that likely 80% of job placements are for positions that are not publicly communicated.  Rather these opportunities come about as a result of contacts job seekers either know, are introduced to, or assertively pursue.  Some call it networking.  I often refer to it as “territory enlargement.”


There are a couple of ways to network.  One is the traditional “cocktail party” approach where business cards and pleasantries are exchanged.  Another is communicating with family members, friends, and associates that you are aiming to change employment.  Between these two actions, likely the latter will yield greater success, although it presents the challenges of a current employer potentially learning about that job hunt. 


A better tactic to networking involves not even directly making a contact with the friend or associate about a job, but rather scheduling a “research” breakfast, coffee, or lunch meeting of short duration.  The introductory call may go like:


“I am doing some research about your industry and wondered if you might have time for a brief conversation.  I am interested in learning about the challenges and opportunities you face, how you deal with them, and what your expectations are going forward.”


Although we can all respect those with a busy schedule, who of us is not honored that someone is truly interested in what we do.  Often we’ll make the time.


Once the appointment is secured come to the meeting not so much equipped with a resume, but rather a professional binder for note taking.  Some other good questions to ask face-to face might include:


What is your industry doing that is working or not working?
What are some of the challenges or obstacles you see at this time and how do you think they are best overcome?
If you were in transition right now, where and how would you align yourself to be in the most advantageous position for the long run?
How flexible or adaptable has your company been to change?  What are some of the opportunities that can be leveraged to move the company successfully forward?

Where appropriate be prepared during the conversation to interject some personal experiences you may have had that pertain to the discussion.  What is helpful and impressive is sharing similar situations you may have faced, what the obstacles were, the actions you took, and results you achieved.


At the conclusion of the meeting your binder will contain a list of other organizations and contacts who you also plan to meet.  You will present your list to your contact and ask, “are there other names and organizations that I should have on this list?”  Their name and the name of their enterprise will also be on that sheet.  It is highly likely that they will either give you an additional contact, or more, or were so impressed with your direct and professional approach that you have gotten an interview without actually going through the process. 


Follow up with a thank you note for their time; handwritten is even better.  At best you may have forged an opportunity for yourself; at worst you have networked creatively by receiving an informal interview…and enlarged your territory.


The Seed Sower