Kung Fu for Job Search or the Principles of Networking

Posted by Bob Wheeler

Bruce Lee and Cleared Job SearchJob seekers are always on the lookout for the sure fire thing that will help them land their next opportunity. The problem is, despite a plethora of articles on the internet and advice from friends and colleagues, no such thing exists. And yet, many transition programs, career service departments and job seekers keep looking for that magic bullet only to end up putting too much effort into unproductive activities.

I believe the cover of the next Transition Guide and other Career Services Handbook should begin with the quote from one of Bruce Lee’s mentors, Kung Fu Master, Ip Man:

If you believe everything I say you will never be a good fighter.

The quote refers to the Wing Chun theory of Kung Fu which is based more on principles, rather than techniques, and like those who practice Wing Chun successful job seekers should concentrate less on the “What to do” and focus more on the “Why to do it”.

Take for example the topic of networking. There’s a ton of advice out there on what you “need to do”, but creating a profile on LinkedIn or joining a professional organization won’t do much good if the right people don’t get to know you as a person. Joining is simply a technique.

The principle of networking is to meet the right people and allow those people to learn about you and your talents. So instead of joining every group or organization you run across, stick to the ones that align with your likely career path. By the same token, don’t be afraid to withdraw from groups that don’t turn out to be as useful as you had thought they might be. As good groups are identified, you must then become active. It takes time for people to get to know you – the sooner you start the sooner you’ll see results.

Focusing on the principle rather than the technique may also be what opens up non-traditional opportunities through events and organizations such as a church group or your children’s sports teams for example. Appreciating that these are opportunities to get to know people may encourage you to strike up a few more conversations during these events. Who knows what you’ll learn and who’ll you’ll meet if you just take a moment to introduce yourself.

With that in mind take a look at the six networking principles below and let these act as a guide as you decide which groups to join and what actions to take.

Principles of Networking

  • You can’t rush relationships so start now. Build your network before you need it.
  • Don’t focus only on those you perceive to be influential, helping others is a powerful way to network and often pays off big time over the long run.
  • Attending an event without talking to people is like not attending at all.
  • Phone calls are underutilized and go a long way in strengthening a connection.
  • Length and consistency of relationship matters. It is better to have four good interactions with someone every three months than to only have four in the same week.
  • Don’t ask for favors from someone until you know them well.

Another topic that could use some Wing Chun is that of resumes and cover letters. I recently attended a training session for Transition Counselors at a local Marine Corps Installation and most of the questions posed to the recruiters regarding resumes and cover letters were in search of a hard and fast answer.

Should job seekers send a cover letter? Is it better to have a Chronological or Functional Resume? Is a resume longer than two pages acceptable? The answers to all these questions were the same:

It depends.

This, however, wasn’t the answer the audience was looking for. They wanted that magic bullet.

The principle of the matter is that resumes are simply tools for communication about your abilities to meet the specific needs of an organization. And like it or not, communication is the responsibility of the receiver of the message, not the sender. So what one organization calls for may not be what another prefers. Getting mired in the search for a blanket technique only causes frustration.

If there are people in your network that actually work for an organization you’re applying to, or at the very least work in the same industry, they will likely have some actionable advice. Absent those connections, applying the principles below can help job seekers leverage the techniques to create effective resumes for their individual situation.

Principles of the Resume and Cover Letter

  • The hiring process is a risk management decision for the organization. Your resume will be judged against the job description as well as other resumes the organization has now and those they expect to get in the future.
  • The more sought after your skills, the less the format of resume matters.
  • Possessing skills that are highly sought after is not the same as being highly qualified.
  • Know your audience. A resume going into a searchable database may be longer and list more information, while a resume being delivered for a specific position should be focused on that position only.
  • Cover letters can be useful if they amplify your resume or explain a situation like relocation, but the resume matters the most. If your resume doesn’t highlight the right skills, a cover letter is not likely to get read at all.

By first understanding the principles of the job hunt job seekers can then effectively use the tight techniques in the right situation. Just as one of the tenets of Wing Chun reminds us,

Upon achieving the highest level of proficiency, application of techniques will vary depending on the opponent.

Bob WheelerBob Wheeler is a ClearedJobs.Net Account Manager, a Navy veteran, a former recruiter and a certified veteran transition coach. You may reach Bob at [email protected].


This entry was posted on Friday, September 25, 2015 5:47 pm

2 thoughts on “Kung Fu for Job Search or the Principles of Networking”

  1. As a Chinese Martial Arts practitioner and Navy Veteran that is always looking for the right opportunity, I can truly appreciate the correlation between the principles of wing chun and the search for the next job opportunity. Like Bruce Lee says, you have to be like “water”, meaning going with the flow and following the path of least resistance.

    Great Article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation