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On Networking

Early in my recruiting career I was baffled by networking.  I was told by everyone that I worked with that “networking” was how I was going to find the best candidates, and how I’d be able to gain access to new clients.  So I dutifully attended various “networking events”, and I generally met two types of people: (1) active job seekers, many of whom had already applied to a position in my agency, and (2) other recruiters

This was an inefficient way to meet both these types of people, and I decided I was doing something wrong. This post from a recent college grad struck a chord with me when I read it, as it captures that feeling better than I ever could.

I was laid off in 2008, and was able to find a contract position and then a full time position that year through people I had worked with.  Exactly what people would call “networking”.  What happened in those 8 years? I didn’t become less introverted, or work hard on being better at networking. I simply met and worked with a bunch of people. I therefore had a larger group of people I could ask for help.

Many thoughtful and well-written pieces of advice assume that everyone can and should become a networker extraordinaire. They conflate my situation in 2008 with networking, and would probably cite it as an example of success.  I think that’s confusing and unhelpful.

Here’s why.  Networking is something that you do to build a large contacts list.  It involves putting yourself in situations where you will meet new people, establish a connection, and maintain some kind of relationship/dialogue over time.

What I do during job searches isn’t networking. I think of who I know that might be able to help me find a job. And I ask them if they can help me find a job.  The people I focus on, and those that are most helpful, are individuals that have actually seen my work. They’re the most likely to give me a meaningful recommendation.

Being well networked (i.e. knowing lots of people) certainly helps this process.  But I would contend that having a large number of people in your network has limited value in a job search.  Most of them don’t know you well enough to do any more than send job postings they see to you. Which you can do yourself.

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  1. Lori
    September 23rd, 2010 at 06:07 | #1

    Your perspective on networking is very refreshing. I agree, it is a natural by-product of working with people on real-life business challenges and projects. When networking is elevated to its own event . . . it kind of seems awkward . . . like a dating service: too obvious and artificial-feeling.

    I checked out the NYC Class of 10 Unemployed guy’s blog as well. I could see his world, feel the sunshine, taste his sandwich. I hope he finds what he’s looking for.

    Thanks for making me think.

  2. Mark
    September 23rd, 2010 at 18:37 | #2

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I went to a conference today that reinforced this point-I “networked” with a variety of people. But most of what I did was reconnect with people I already know. Granted, I met a few new people, but those connections were brokered by folks I already knew.

  1. July 20th, 2010 at 16:07 | #1