Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

Orville Pierson – Senior Business Executive and Author

Orville Pierson is a Senior Vice President, Corporate Director of Program Design and Service Delivery for Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), a $200 million career services company with 240 offices worldwide. He is also the author of The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search (McGraw-Hill) and Highly Effective Networking: Meet the Right People and Get a Great Job (Career Press). You can visit his website at

Josh Hinds: In your opinion what is the best way to ask for a referral on a potential job without sounding too pushy or running the risk of sounding like a user?

Orville Pierson: I’m not quite sure what “referral on a potential job” means. The most effective job search networking is upstream of job openings, pursuing the right people in the right organizations BEFORE there is a job opening. Or at least before the relevant manager is ready to publicly admit that an opening is coming up.

So the most effective general procedure is:

— Make a list of organizations where you want to work.

— Show the list to people you know, friends and relatives.
Ask them if they know anything about any of the organizations on the list. Please notice that the odds of getting useful information are very good, and this information directs and informs your search. Also ask for suggestions on additional organizations.

— Ask your contacts (above) if they know anyone who currently works in any position at any of the organizations you discussed – and if so, would they be comfortable introducing you to any of them. What you are doing here is getting a referral to an inside contact at an employer of interest to you.

— Talk with the inside contact, preferably in person. Find out more about the organization (Do you like it?)and whether you’d be a credible candidate for the next appropriate opening. If that all looks positive, ask for a referral to the person you would report to, if you worked there. Tell everyone over there how very much you would like to work there – but only if that’s true, of course.

— Do not be aggressive about asking for introductions. You want only those referrals that your networking partner is comfortable making. Those are the referrals that are most likely to work, because they are a potential three-way win.

Josh Hinds: How can people best go about meeting and connecting with the “right people” as suggested in the title of one of your books?

Orville Pierson: See above. It’s all about starting with the people who know you well and getting introductions to people they know well. The stronger the relationship, the more trust there is. And the whole thing works best when trust is the strongest.

It’s also essential to know who the “right people” are. This means having a Target List of employers you want to concentrate on. You focus on those organizations, looking to discover who would be your boss if you worked there. Then you build a chain of introductions to get from people you know to the people you want to meet.

It’s not a big deal. This “chain” is usually just three people: (1) Someone you know right now, (2) Someone who works where you want to work and (3) The person you’d report to if you worked there.

The key is having a long enough list (usually about 40) and systematically and patiently working that list, revising it as you learn more.

It definitely requires persistence and it takes some time. But this is a proven approach that works in good markets and bad.

Josh Hinds: You’re the author of both The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search and Highly Effective Networking: Meet the Right People and Get a Great Job. Can you share a key lesson you teach from each book?

Orville Pierson: I just did that for Highly Effective Networking, so now I’ll add some key points from the other book.

What’s most important in The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search is the idea of having a Project Plan for your job search, and progress measurements that will tell you if you are moving in the right direction and at a reasonable speed.

The heart of the Project Plan is this:

— Professional Objective, or where you want to go next in your career. This can also be seen as a statement of the kind of work you’re good at, the jobs where you can make a contribution. You should be able to name a cluster of job titles consistent with this kind of work.

— Target Market, or specification of the industry, location and size of the organizations you want to work for. This is the basis for the Target List discussed above.

— Core Message, or what you’ll say to that particular group of organizations to show them that you’re a credible candidate for the work described in your Professional Objective. This of course is the basis for a focused resume. But equally important, it’s what you tell everyone when you’re networking.

Progress measurements is too large a topic to cover in detail here, but I’ll say this: one important measure is how many people you have networking conversations with each week.

According to data collected by Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), the global career services company where I create curriculum and train career coaches, successful job hunters usually have at least 15 job search conversations each week.

Does that sound like a lot? More than you can manage?

LHH has worked with over a million job hunters over the last 30 years, in good times and bad. Most initially say that they will not network or cannot network, or that they cannot possibly do the volume of networking that’s needed.

And then they successfully do it.

Not immediately, of course. First they need to learn what networking is and is not. Then they need to learn how to do it in ways that are not difficult or embarrassing. It usually takes four to six weeks to learn the game and get up to speed. Then they conduct effective searches and find jobs. If you’re willing to learn how — and put in the work — you can too.

– Happy Networking, Josh Hinds
(Connect with me on Facebook or Twitter)
Learn more about having me speak to your group at

*brought to you by