Every job search involves understanding the ecosystems within industries and the people who can help you find new opportunities.  There are several layers of people, external to organizations and internal to organizations, who can be helpful, provide information, guidance, connections and introductions.

In the first category – the people who are in an industry but external to companies you might be interested in – are funders, analysts and influencers.  For example, if you are interested in working in the innovation space, there are people and companies that provide analysis and reporting on the innovation space and influencers or analysts who write about the space.  In my career, I’ve commented on and written about innovation, so I may have some role as an “influencer”.  These individuals know a lot about the space and can be very helpful identifying what’s happening and who the leading companies are.

When you have targeted specific industries or companies to talk to, then using the connections and guidance from influencers or analysts to identify people within the company is invaluable.  In my experience, finding the right person to talk to in a job search is a lot like a sales effort.  People fill a number of roles:

  • influencers,
  • economic buyers,
  • technical buyers and
  • decision makers.

You need to find the influencers who can give you the inside scoop, who can tell you what the economic buyers and technical buyers will want to know about your experience and value proposition.  Ultimately, you’ll want to find the decision maker, the person who will do the actual hiring and where the job reports.  He or she will take advice from the economic and technical buyer, and may be somewhat influenced by the influencers inside the organization and outside.  Most of the internal folks are there to winnow out candidates and will do so for many reasons – experience, education, background, perceived fit and so forth.  That’s their job, and most do it really well.  However, if you want a position badly enough, don’t let a “no” from anyone other than the decision maker stop you.