THE BLOG

Who Gets Back to Me?

09/04/2013 12:47 pm ET | Updated Nov 04, 2013

Who gets back to me? Returns my calls, texts and emails?

Besides the question, "When will I find work?," is there any question more important to someone searching for work, than "Who gets back to me?"

There is an abundance of common sense advice for trying to make sure people do get back to you. Most of it we all know. Advice like: Keep it short, get to the point, communicate with a person, not a blind email. The usual advice.

But what if we're talking about just you? Who gets back to you? Who is on that list? Do your Facebook friends get back to you? Your Linked In contacts? Or have you found that the larger your network becomes, the weaker it gets?

Logically, it would seem that 'more is better' when it comes to networking. Especially when the path to a job is almost never in a straight line. But as you start to run through the list of people who really do get back to you, stop for a moment and think: how many of those people have come into your life specifically through a networking effort?

Now think back again. Ever had a person respond to you, and been totally shocked? Perhaps there is a clue there in figuring out who gets back to you.

The late, great film critic, author and newspaperman Roger Ebert once got back to me. One of the proudest moments of my life. His name flashed up on my computer monitor and I literally gasped. I had written a tribute to another iconic figure, Studs Terkel, and Ebert chose to post it on his blog. Sometime later, I wrote an essay titled, "If You Were Jill Clayburgh." Ebert got back to me again, tweeted the piece and the viewership on the site where the piece was posted went from around 70 to 7,000. In about an hour.

Why did Roger Ebert get back to me? I certainly had never met him. Never networked with him -- whatever that means. And admiring him immensely could not have been the reason. There are people I'm related to who don't get back to me, there are people I've known for years who don't get back to me. Why did Roger Ebert? Was it simply his gracious heart? His well known kindness, even to strangers?

Or was there something more?

In the must read, best selling book, The Power of Who, author Bob Beaudine, poses a very radical idea: "you already know everyone you need to know." Beaudine goes on to fully develop that idea into a way of looking at the world that has changed lives. But for now, stick with the one idea. "You already know everyone you need to know." Think how networking, if you even want to call it that, would change if your focus became the people you already know. Not the elusive person who somehow holds the key to your next job. But rather, the people you already know.

In sharp contrast to Roger Ebert, I once obtained the phone number of a powerful political staffer for the Mayor of Chicago. I thought I'd arrived. Finally. I was one phone call from power. And when I called him, left the message and of course he never got back to me... for a day or so, I was actually surprised.

Turns out that people who don't know me, don't care!

Perhaps the best example of networking gone wrong, was the time I got the phone number of a prominent media executive. I'll never forget dialing and hearing his voice mail message. "If I don't already know you, don't leave a message."

Bob Beaudine's words had come alive on my phone! The people who did not know me, really didn't care if they spoke with me or not.

And I had part of the answer to "Who gets back to me?" The people who get back to me are the one's I already know. The one's who actually care. Pretty much EVERY time, they are the people who I have already met. Often in person.

But what about Ebert? He was certainly not someone I know. Why did he get back to me?

I believe the there are two reasons.

The first reason is that in writing about Studs Terkel and Jill Clayburgh, I communicated that he and I were members of a common community. Not just geographically. Rather, a community of people who cared about artists like Studs Terkel and Jill Clayburgh. By holding up these people and paying tribute, both Ebert and I were building a kind of community. In Finding Work When There Are No Jobs, we call it "communitizing." It doesn't beat face to face. But it creates a virtual community. And a community always hold more power than a person.

The second reason was that in paying tribute to the artists, we were taking care of something larger than ourselves: the work of the two artists. In the book we call that "Practicing Stewardship."

Want to come up with your own answer to "who gets back to me?" Ask yourself:

1. Is the person someone I already know?
2. Are the two of us in community?
3. Are we together taking care of something larger than ourselves?

And if the answer is 'yes,' stand by.

There is a call coming in for you!