Past Issues

October 20, 2014

The Madam Secretary
Approach to Job Search

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Madam Secretary Approach to Job Search

Peter Weddle, Author of the new guide to the secrets of job search and career success, Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System

There's a new show on CBS called Madam Secretary. The series describes the challenges and outside-the-box solutions of a person unexpectedly thrust into the world of international politics. The first, episode, however, was a primer on job searches in difficult times.

The President asks Elizabeth Faulkner McCord to serve as his Secretary of State when the incumbent is lost in a mysterious plane crash. While the circumstances are fictional, there's absolutely nothing make-believe about why the President (a) was familiar with her and (b) trusted her enough to offer her the job.


The President and McCord were familiar with one another through a string of previous personal interactions. They had a professional relationship.

Building such relationships is called networking. It is the single best way to find a job in today's tough job market. Do a Google search and you'll find estimates ranging from 30 to 80 percent of all job openings and a much higher percentage of the best jobs are filled by networking - by one person reaching out to another person they know.

Networking, however, is not about building up a big address book of connections on LinkedIn, friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter. It's not a contact sport.

Networking is a team sport. It's about people getting to know one another through the exchange of information, opinions and support.

In most cases, that kind of familiarity takes time to develop. That's why a lot of people struggle to use networking in a job search. They haven't taken the time to establish many relationships.

What should you do if that's your situation? That's where the other aspect of the President's offer comes into play.


Networking establishes a relationship by developing familiarity and trust. The President not only knew McCord, he trusted her because he had seen her display deep expertise and sound judgment in articles she had written.

So, if you're trying to build relationships in a job search - if you want to network with hiring managers and recruiters - invest the time and effort to display your expertise and judgment where they can see it.

Avoid the LinkedIn groups, Facebook pages, chats and blogs that focus on job search and, instead, post your comments where employed people hang out. Identify at least one but no more than three blogs or sites that (a) are popular with those in your field and (b) address professional topics related to it. Then, make it a habit to contribute to the dialogue.

The following guidelines will help ensure your comments build trust:

  • Contribute regularly - about twice a week is best.
  • Proofread what you write - make sure it's clearly written and error free.
  • Treat everyone with whom you interact as a colleague - keep your comments friendly and always professional.
  • Be generous in sharing your knowledge and insights - the Golden Rule of Networking is to give as good as you get.
Madam Secretary isn't exactly your traditional job search primer, but the series' first episode at least contains some valuable pointers for those in transition.

Thanks for reading,

Described by The Washington Post as "a man filled with ingenious ideas," Peter Weddle has been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and He's also written and edited over two dozen books. Check out his blockbuster guide to the secrets of job search and career success called Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System.

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