After some time of wallowing in the grief of a job loss, it’s time to pull on your big girl/big boy pants and move on. It’s time to reach out to people you already know and ask for help. How you do this makes all the difference.

You don’t want to approach this too directly. People really want to help, but they don’t believe they can. So, when you reach out to people it’s to “catch up,” “reconnect,” and “ask for advice.” Literally anyone can be the key resource in your job hunt. In my job hunt, it took just 2 coffees and 3 lunches to find the perfect job lead.

The point of this reaching out is to get friends, family and new acquaintances thinking about you and watching for signs in the marketplace that jobs are about to open up. The goal is to apply for an unadvertised job—a job in the so-called Hidden Market. Why?

Because employers, like everyone else, want to do things the easy way. If they have a handful of candidates referred by employees and friends of the company, that’s way easier than advertising a job and having to deal with hundreds—and  sometimes thousands—of job applicants.

Your chances of getting an interview are 10 to 100 times higher if your resume is hand carried or forwarded by email with even the slightest recommendation. The person delivering the resume need only say, “Here’s a sharp guy I met at a party Saturday night.” Suddenly, you’re in. You are being considered for a position because you were recommended to someone you don’t know by someone you just met. Crazy.  And crazy effective.

Where do you start to network? If you’re like most American workers, you’ve been keeping your head down, working like a dog the last few years. You haven’t made time to go to association meetings. Your LinkedIn profile is lame. You have had no contact with former coworkers and supervisors. Heck, you don’t even have time for relatives!

Here’s how you start. Make a list of five people you know quite well—one from high school, one former coworker, one fellow soccer or PTA parent, one neighbor, and one cousin. No kidding. All these people know that you are a person of your word, that you keep promises and don’t have two heads. That’s all it takes to start.

Invite each one to lunch or coffee. While you are talking, each of these people is going to give you ideas and names of other people to talk to. If each one only mentions three ideas (and they will likely give you 7-10) you will now have 15 more people to contact! That’s how easy networking is!

The huge side benefit: all this socializing is fun. You are meeting new people, sharing ideas and helping others.  You’re rekindling old friendships and enjoying yourself. Isn’t that more appealing than staring at a computer screen with the same old job offerings day after day?

You might say, “How do I know which leads to follow?” That’s the magic. You have no idea where these conversations will lead, but each one takes you closer to a job that’s right for you. Of course, if you go into these conversations with purpose, you’re going to get to the goal faster.  More about that later.

Try out your first few coffees and lunches on people you know best. After you get the process down, go for people who are well-connected and who are even more likely to help you. But do it.

My clients resist this idea like crazy. I beg them to get out and talk to people. When they do, they always get fired up. Try it this week. Meet with just two people you know and see how it lifts your spirits. So, what’s the most powerful question you can ask yourself to get motivated?

Who do I know who might help me?

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