The key to a new job: Karma

One job seeker relied on his network to help him find a new job, and now he helps other job seekers do the same thing.

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By Jessica Dickler, staff writer

Kevin Nichols took networking a step further by helping other job seekers in San Francisco.
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NEW YORK ( -- Network, network, network. That's the conventional advice to the unemployed. But in the worst job market in 26 years, sometimes, it's the only method that works.

At least that was the case for Kevin Nichols. His aggressive networking led to a job with better hours and more money.

Nichols, 34, was a career paralegal who had worked in six firms in the last 11 years. But in July, he was forced to leave the legal world behind and make a fresh start.

After getting laid off from a large law firm, Nichols immediately began looking at other paralegal positions and went on several interviews. But he found that most of the jobs would require taking a huge paycut. "They offered 30%-40% less than what I had been paid," he explained.

With a wife and two children, Nichols was unwilling to make such a sacrifice. "I clearly wanted to find another job quickly, but at the end of the day it would not be wise to take something until something better came along," he said.

Meanwhile, Nichols devoted much of his time to networking, both in person and through sites like LinkedIn. He reached out to former colleagues and acquaintances and made new contacts. Though still out of work, he even started a San Francisco networking group near his home in Oakland to help others as well.

He encouraged fellow job seekers to employ the same skills and tools Nichols was using for his own job search, which ultimately paid off.

One contact through his former firm introduced him to the vice president of sales at iControlESI, a company that sells a software tool for litigators.

Although the new position was a stretch from his old career as a paralegal, Nichols' previous law experience translated well. "Because I consider myself a professional networker, I wasn't too afraid of sales," Nichols said.

Nichols was offered a position as a regional sales manager and gladly accepted.

Later he discovered some unanticipated perks to the new gig. First, Nichols has a flexible schedule that allows him to drop off and pick up his children from school. "I can be a lot more active in their lives," he said.

Another benefit is the potential to earn substantially more money on top of his base salary.

"Starting out I'm making what I had been making at my previous job. With the commission structure I could very well double my salary."

But one of the most unexpected benefits of his forced career change is that he discovered a passion helping other job seekers and through the Downtown San Francisco networking group, he can now preach what he practiced.

"My goal is to continue to empower people to go beyond the job boards to create opportunities," he said.

And he takes pride in their successes. So far, three other members of the group Nichols started have also been hired.

According to Paul Bernard, a veteran executive coach and career management adviser who runs his own firm, many job seekers make the mistake of relying too heavily on online job boards, particularly at the start of their search.

Bernard advises job seekers to begin to network immediately. Not only can networking expand your possibilities but it can also build and demonstrate skills, he said.

"Networking builds confidence and gets you into the hidden job market," he explained, referring to unadvertised job openings.

And when it comes to networking, nothing beats in-person contact. "[Nichols] used social networking tools effectively but he didn't allow that to substitute for face-to-face meetings," Bernard noted.

By setting up meetings and informal gatherings, job seekers can share experiences and pool their resources.

Bernard says job seekers should follow Nichols' lead and try to help others as well. "Don't view networking selfishly," he cautioned.

By helping others, you create "a very powerful feedback loop in terms of possibilities," he said.

Read updates on the people previously profiled in Hired! Join the Hired! group on Facebook.

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