It’s "Deja Knew" All Over Again

Published: Aug 08, 2006

By Peter Weddle -- We’ve all experienced “déjà vu,” that eerie feeling that we’re seeing or experiencing something in the present that we’ve seen or experienced at some indeterminate point in the past. It’s like doing reality all over again. Now, these past episodes probably won’t do us much good in a job search, but our past contacts will. The trick, of course, is to find them, and that’s best done in a process I call “deja knew.” The goal is to connect in the present with the people whom we knew in the past.

Most of us are aware that the best opportunities in the job market are often filled by networking. And, most of us, as a consequence, make a genuine effort to reach out to whatever contacts we have when we’re looking for a new or better position. The problem is that we limit the scope of our effort.

Basically, we all have three kinds of contacts:

  • People we know and are in touch with;

  • People we don’t know but with whom we are put in touch by someone we do know; and

  • People we know and are not in touch with.

  • Experience suggests that we tend to focus on the first and second category of contact, probably because we feel as if they are more near-at-hand and, therefore, potentially more useful. That third category, however—the people we knew in the past but have lost touch with in the present—can be a wonderful source of information and job leads.

    Who are these candidates for “deja knew?” They include former:

  • Teachers

  • Bosses

  • Colleagues at work

  • College roommates

  • Teammates

  • Sorority sisters

  • Fraternity brothers

  • Club friends

  • Significant others, and

  • Others less significant.

  • How can we connect with them? The Internet offers a number of tools that can be very helpful. I recommend that you start with the following three free resources:

    The Ultimates. This resource offers a White Pages, a Yellow Pages, an e-mail directory and more. If you know where a former contact lives, use the White Pages to find the telephone number and address of anyone living in the United States. If you know where the person works, use the Yellow Pages to find the contact information for any business in the U.S.. If you don’t know where your former contact lives or works, try the e-mail directory.

    The Google Residential Phonebook. This resource lists the residential telephone number for just about anyone living in the U.S., including many numbers that are supposed to be unlisted. Although The Ultimates also claims to provide unlisted as well as listed numbers, I’ve found that the Google directory is better.

    To use this feature, visit the Google Home Page and enter the following command into the Search box: rphonebook: the person’s last name, the city where they live. For example, if your first boss, ten years ago, was Jane Thomas and you think she is still living in Austin, Texas, you would enter the following: rphonebook: Thomas, Austin.

    ZoomInfo If you have no idea where your former contacts are living or working, try searching for them by name in the ZoomInfo database. If they’ve written a paper for their professional society, been promoted at work, given a talk to the local Garden Club, had a baby, hit a hole in one at the local golf course … done practically anything other than breathe and eat, it’s probably been recorded on some document somewhere among the 500 billion documents floating around the Internet. And if that’s the case, ZoomInfo is likely to have a file on them.

    Finally, a word of caution about the “deja knew” process. Be aware that your former friend or colleague may not remember you as well as you remember them. Therefore, when you first communicate with them, begin your e-mail message or phone call with a brief but clear reference to your prior relationship. Then, explain why you are contacting them. As with face-to-face networking, however, don’t put them on the spot by asking them if they can connect you with an employment opportunity. Instead, ask for their counsel and suggestions on how best to advance your job search. Show them that simple courtesy, and your contacts in the past might just become some of your most important contacts all over again in the present.

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