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You don’t know if you don’t ask: Part 1, The story

A few months ago I worked with a young, aspiring geologist. He traveled a non-traditional path toward graduation, taking almost 10 years to complete his degree. During that time, he changed majors, competed on the amateur surfing circuit, won surfing competitions, fished commercially, and contributed management leadership to his family’s thriving business. Two weeks after finally graduating, a close family member received a terminal diagnosis. Putting his own aspirations on hold, he jumped into a full-time care-giver role, until the end.

Tent Rocks by Snowpeak via Flickr (Cochiti Puebo, NM)

Tent Rocks by Snowpeak via Flickr (Cochiti Puebo, NM)

Now, two years beyond graduation, he felt behind the curve because of the choices he’d made. He’d heard job search horror stories from his classmates. And if his confidence wasn’t tenuous enough, he believed his geology knowledge diminished because he wasn’t using it. Through the resume process, we worked through those fears. We identified common threads in all he’d done and demonstrated how his experience translated into skills desired by his target market. His confidence grew.

From our first conversation, I encouraged him to engage his network. He insisted his existing network had no connections to his desired industry. I pushed back, asking how he knew “no one knew anyone” if he’d never asked. While wrapping up his resume project, I “preached the gospel of networking” to him one last time and wished him well.

Network. Network. Network

He took my networking insistence, er, ah, guidance, to heart. During casual conversations, he began sharing his desire to launch a geology career in the oil and gas industry. Imagine his excitement, when he discovered a fellow commercial fisherman, someone he’d known for more than 10 years, had a cousin in the industry. Better yet, this cousin had a leadership in the exploration division for one of the big players in the oil industry.

(May I interject here? “I was right.” Someone knows someone who knows someone who can help.)

He called me excited, terrified, and excited again, all at once. He had a name. He had an email address. He didn’t know what to say. After getting him to exhale, I reminded him he was networking, not running up to a complete stranger and ‘begging for a chance.’ He wrote, I opined, and he tweaked the introductory email. He hit send, and waited. The worst that could happen would be no response. He already had that outcome, so he really had nothing to lose.

The outcome.

He was on the phone with me a week later. Not only did he receive a response, the response included instructions to this busy executive’s administrative assistant to arrange a 15-minute phone call with my client. (WHOA!!) That call happened. The executive connected my client with someone in his organization willing to mentor emerging talent. I’d love to say, the call ended in a job offer, but it didn’t. (That came later, from a completely different organization.) The email and the call did net the foundation of a career-long network he can nurture and cultivate.

Fast-forward another few weeks, and I received an excited email, telling me he’d been so busy with his new job he’d not even had time to share the news. The confidence, and focus, gained through the resume process, and the subsequent success in his foray into networking propelled him into the job that launched his geology career, three months after finalizing his resume. (Some of his classmate searched for more than a year.)

So, what magic did we weave in gaining a connection? I’ll share our winning strategy, and the email, next week.

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