Looking for an executive job? Got social capital? Now that’s money!
Here’s an enviable situation: You’re invited to the reading of a will and discover you’re an heir to an estate. That’s called “found money.”
While you may never experience that same good fortune, take heart that you could have a hidden asset called “social capital”.
Simply put, social capital is the value of other people in your life. Get ready to leverage this asset and use it both during and after your job search.
Traditional career advice focuses on optimizing the value you bring an employer, because, after all, it’s you who the company will be hiring. An often overlooked asset is the other people in your life who also bring value to a prospective employer.
How to Tap Into the Value of Social Capital
To understand what social capital means, consider that guy who “knows everyone.”
When you hear that said about someone, you instantly understand the implication. This is clearly a person wielding power, a real influencer who just gets things done.
Now imagine you can be equally as powerful. All it takes is a little understanding of why people need people.
Start building your social capital by building your connections
You’ll encounter all types of people in your personal and professional life; some will prove invaluable resources. No need to fill out an evaluation form to assess their worth, just be a keen observer of the value they bring to your life.
For example, have you noticed a certain colleague who’s a critical thinker? Maybe you’ve gotten jammed on a project and this person offered help with her great analytical skills.
Hang on to smart people; problem solvers help resolve all sorts of things.
Are your neighbors well connected and able to open doors? Share professional experiences with them and establish common ground. If you’re interested in them, they’ll be interested in you.
Maybe a work colleague always has great insights about employees’ potential and could prove a sounding board as you explore future career moves.
Abandon any preconceived notions of who might be a good connection. Anyone can be a great networker, from a Receptionist . . . to the CEO . . . to your millennial nephew.
Keep an open mind, and then wisdom and assistance will flow back and forth.
Protect and Grow Assets
You certainly wouldn’t leave your home unlocked or place investments in questionable funds, so why wouldn’t you protect your social capital?
Secure those relationships and you’ll be on your way to safeguarding a strong network. Build equity by maintaining your connections on a regular basis, then enjoy the payoff over time.
People notoriously overthink what it takes to keep and grow connections, so here are a few tips on how it works:
- Stay in touch
- Pick up the phone and call
- Show up for face-to-face engagements wherever possible.
It’s not about grand gestures; it’s more about everyday human touches. Send timely responses when they reach out with questions, congratulate people on their achievements or milestones.
It’s all about respecting what’s important to them. Above all else, demonstrate a genuine interest in someone else’s life if you expect them to reciprocate.
It’s also important to recognize when it’s time to move on. For a variety of reasons, people fall out of your life, so don’t rely only on past relationships; have a curiosity about who else crosses your path and be open to new connections.
Oh, and a word about the numbers game people are tempted to play with online connections. A client told me (proudly) that he had 700 LinkedIn connections and asked if I thought that was “enough.” When I inquired what he had done with those connections, he responded “What do you mean?” Guess I got my answer.
Diversify Your Portfolio
Employers traditionally judge your worth based on KSAOs. These attributes address human and intellectual capital. Companies take inventory of the collective KSAOs and consider them their brain trust. You’ll need to have those requisite attributes to get the job:
- Knowledge: You have a mastery of facts, generally in a specified subject matter
- Skills: You are proficient in a given area, e.g. engineering , finance, operations
- Abilities: You can demonstrate knowledge and skills via a mental or physical exercise
- Other: You have attributes called “soft skills” e.g. reliability, multi-tasking, empathy, etc.
You can now add the asset called social capital to your profile of offerings and here’s how you’ll “bring it” to your next employer.
Liquidate Your Assets
You’ve shown your individual net worth and now you’re ready to cash in and add more value by sharing those “people” assets. Liquidation of those assets can take many forms including:
Candidate Referrals: Employers pay fees of up to 30% of base salary through a search firm vs. a vetted candidate who you refer. Priceless! Pay close attention to job postings and be proactive about referring quality candidates.
Vetted Vendors and Consultants: You may have led or participated in a team and spent hours on Requests for Proposals (RFPs), presentations and implementations. Your recommendations of quality providers can save countless time and money to a company.
Acquire Teams with Industry Knowledge: I witnessed the hiring of an entire accounting department following an acquisition where a critical mass was urgently needed. A hiring manager brought on a team from a former employer in the same industry sector, allowing for a smooth and cost effective integration. Now that’s social capital at its best!
Industry Leaders: You may have strong relationships with regulators who can cut through red tape, legislators who can advocate, experts who help interpret trends. They’re willing to give free advice because you’ve done the same for them. Social capital is all about the bottom line. Figure out that “people thing” and you’ve just struck gold for both you and your next employer.
More About Social Capital (Networking) and Executive Job Search
Barbara Schultz is a Human Resource Executive turned Career Stager. She elevates the job seeker and peak performer to center stage, at any phase of their career. She is also a freelance writer, sharing perspectives with HR Leaders to bridge the generational divide in today’s diverse workforce. Visit Barbara on LinkedIn.