So much for networking, huh?

I spent some time with my uncle at a family reunion over the weekend talking about his current job transition (do you know someone that is in transition?). He was telling me about the two very exciting opportunities that he is waiting to hear back from, after having numerous interviews with both companies. I asked him how he found these opportunities (supposedly he should have found them through networking – 60-80% for people like me, 95% for executives like him, right?).

He said “same as my last job – a recruiter who I didn’t know found my resume and contacted me. So much for networking, huh?

Ya, so much for networking.

Dave Perry did a study (it took around 2 years and involved survey input from thousands of people) to determine where jobs really come from. The results, if I remember correctly, were that the higher level positions where NOT found through networking. Interesting. I can’t find the results on his website – Dave – where is that study??

So, with this statement, so much for networking, huh?, are we to just discard networking? Is there any value to this thing called networking?

I’m not ready to throw networking out the door. But I can see when people have a list of their network contacts, or a stack of business cards, and that list or stack doesn’t get them the results they hear about, that they think that networking doesn’t work. Networking is about relationships, which strengthen over time, and need nurturing. Putting my card in your stack and never contacting me is not nurturing anything. You may not need to talk to me now, and you may be really busy (aren’t we all), but you should do something so that we can have a relationship that is moving forward, and I can know who you are before you need me to know who you are.

As a side note, I’m preparing a post for LegalAndrew on networking… he is asking for one tip for 2007. And I figured it out, at some crazy hour when I should have been sleeping I figured out what the one tip that I have is! But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what my one tip is. I’ll give you a hint – its not “just do it.”

follow-up on 1/3/06: I just got an e-mail from Dave Perry with this link to his study

7 thoughts on “So much for networking, huh?”

  1. Networking isn’t the only way to find a job but I believe it is the most effective. Sometimes, you’ll get a job through the Internet or someone finding your resume but don’t depend on that.

    You can get rich by playing the lottery but that doesn’t mean you should give up your “day job”. Put most of the effort into what is most likely to work. For a job search I believe that is networking and if you get lucky and win the “lottery” count your blessings.

  2. Yep, I agree Michael. I consider this part of career management to be like going to the gym. You can only work biceps, and do really good at it, but what about the rest of your body? It has to be planned, you have to feed your muscles, etc. Networking might be the funnest (or most feel-good) or whatever, but you can’t neglect the other things. It is a part of the overall strategy.

    I think the funniest thing is that people think that networking is the silver bullet – it is definitely a great tool, and quite effective, but it won’t guarantee a short search, or quick success — especially if you “network” wrong!

  3. Networking isn’t just about finding a job anyway, it’s about improving your reputation and attaining credibility in whatever field. It often leads to job opportunities, but maybe it just leads to improved relationships with clients at your existing gig, or a speaking engagement, or at the least, a handful of new friends you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

  4. Let’s face it–networking is a career management tool, not a job search tool. Too many people start to build and nurture a network when they think they need it–when they need a job. Networking is not a quick start / quick result activity.

    As Alex pointed out, networking is about long term results–building the relationships and credibility that lead to, and enhance, opportunities. But that won’t happen overnight–and it won’t happen to those who think a good night of networking is a rubber chicken dinner and a pocketful of business cards that go nowhere. Networking is a “give to get” gig. Those who are in it for themselves alone will languish and say networking never works.

    But those those who network by doing for others, and those who network with a plan for nurturing their network every day (or week) over the life of their career, find that networking delivers in the most gratifying and unexpected ways–and often just when needed the most.

  5. I don’t know that I can add a whole lot to the great comments that Deb, Alex and Michael already gave, but I’ll tell a story that helps make the point.

    A few years ago, I was at a conference in Vegas. More accurately, I was on my way to the conference, riding the elevator.

    And, being the super-friendly guy that I like to be, I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me. We walked across the casino together, talking about the conference, the industry, etc. And we became friends. Turns out that he’s the CEO of the largest industry-specific recruiting firm out there. But I wasn’t looking for a job.

    We kept in touch, hanging out at conferences, meeting up on occasion, talking when we had a few. Just as all good networkers do. A couple of years later, he called me and said: “Hey Mike, there’s this guy you have to meet. By the way, he has a job that’d be perfect for you.”

    And, yes, the job worked out. But more interesting (to me, anyways) was that this guy that I had to meet and the recruiter both ended up as guests on my podcast later on, helping me build the next phase of my career.

    The point here is simple (though I’m making it convoluted) – as previous commenters said, building a network is a long-term, slow-growth, “you never know what you’re going to get” process. It’s not a job-search tool (though, sometimes it leads to jobs).

    Mostly, your network is an opportunity that you create for the things that you need to show up at a given time. And the more people you help and serve, the more that opportunity grows.

    Sorry for the long, convoluted, late-night networking story. 😉

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