Why Networking Sucks In The Job Search (aka, Why Networking Isn’t Working)

Many people “network” into their next job, right?

That’s what we’re told.

And we believe it.  It sounds good.  It feels good.  Everyone says it. It must be true.

Then WHY isn’t networking into your next job WORKING??

I’ll give you two reasons why networking might not be working in your job search:

1. Networking takes a long time.

Think about planting a tomato. When do you plant the seed?  What do you have to do before you can get the harvest?

It’s a long process of watching hardly any progress.  It takes time, and care.  Sometimes, you have to go out in the evening and cover your poor little tomato plants or else an overnight freeze will make all of your efforts go to waste.

People who plant tomatoes know what they are getting into, and they have a vision of what they’ll get when it’s all done.  They take the time to do what needs to be done.

I think we, as networkers, DON’T know what we are getting into, and our visions are unrealistic because we don’t know what needs to be done.

We want to be “microwave networkers,” where we push a few buttons and 30 seconds later we have what we want… you can’t expect to simply go to ONE network meeting and get your dream job.  You can’t expect to do some searches on LinkedIn and magically get into the CEO’s office.  You can’t expect to shoot off a few emails to meet people and expect to have them gush all over you as the next best hire.

You need to NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS.  This is slow.  And we are impatient. And that is why networking sucks in a job search.  Because it doesn’t necessarily produce overnight results.

2. Networking is misunderstood.

It’s not just about having a slick business card and going to job search meetings.  It definitely is not about arriving late and leaving early (like I did, because I didn’t want to network with losers).

Networking is not about adding a ton of people to your “list.”  Whether it’s adding more people to LinkedIn or JibberJobber, it’s not just about getting more names and phone numbers.

Networking is not about that proverbial “we should do lunch sometime,” … that “sometime” that never happens.

Networking is about nurturing “intimate relationships.”  When I realized this (as I read Never Eat Alone), EVERYTHING changed.  Everything.  It was still a nurturing process, but EVERYTHING changed.  Networking was more fun, and definitely more rewarding.  I focused on helping others, and was able to give, and serve, and get fulfillment as I developed intimated relationships instead of focusing on “is this person going to be able to help me, or am I wasting my time?”

Many people I meet in the job search just don’t get it.  They do not understand what networking is.  It’s like planting a tomato in the wrong soil, or not watering it, or not giving it appropriate sunlight… if you don’t know what you are doing with a tomato plant you probably won’t get tomatoes.

If you don’t know how to nurture intimate relationships you probably won’t find your job through networking.

Both situations will leave you asking “but what did I do wrong?”

I’m sorry that you drank the “networking kool-aid” and thought networking was going to be your quick-fix, and are now very discouraged because you see no results.  Perhaps you understood networking to be something different?

If so, go to your library TODAY and get Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi.  This book completely changed my job search.

While you are there, get Some Assembly Required by Thom Singer.  It is a great companion to Never Eat Alone, and has tons of tactical tips and ideas.

Does networking suck for you?  Why?

18 thoughts on “Why Networking Sucks In The Job Search (aka, Why Networking Isn’t Working)”

  1. I also recommend Harvey Mackey’s timeless book, “Dig Your Well Before Your Thirsty.”

    Jason is right on target with this one — I hear clients complain that their network isn’t “working” and I ask them what they’ve done to help THOSE people lately. Zig Ziglar once said: “You can get anything in life you want if you help enough people get what they want.” Remember that as you work to build and nurture your network.

  2. Networking is not a quick process. It takes a long time for your network to work for you. Which is why I subscribe to @conniereece’s “Build your network before you need it” school of thought.

  3. What you’re saying here reminds me of the difference between a job search and career management. You can’t “network” for a quick result. Well, in some rare cases with certain tools, you can. But for the long run, and for mutual benefit to all in the network, you need nurturing. Read Keith’s book, like Jason said.

    I still need to check out Thom’s book.

  4. Right on (as usual), Jason! Building effective relationships by helping others first is the only way to go. There’s a commitment of time, energy and effort, not to mention significant discipline involved in that.

    NOTE to reinkefj — The SMARTSTART Coach (that would be me) is one of the biggest introverts you’ll ever meet. Truthfully. But it is possible for introverts to network effectively within their comfort zone.

    I know because I have had to do it myself (I’m a big fan of not fighting “who you are” by nature) and my own network rocks and is very extensive globally. We even taught an MBA Masterclass on networking for introverts some time ago because, frankly, there are a great many of us. So… take heart! You are not alone and you too can learn how to network effectively!

    Linda M. Lopeke
    The SMARTSTART Coach

  5. Someone on the blogosphere said the worst thing about networking is the word itself. It’s really just a matter of getting to know people – getting to know them, not using them or seeing what’s in it for you. And it does take time. Introverts have to make themselves talk to people. This is a basic career skill and life skill. I know it’s hard, I am one, but we just have to suck it up and do it.

    Introverts have the advantage because they hate the limelight and prefer to let others talk about themselves. All the better if this can be spun into a keener ability to focus on others and remember key things about others like names, family and career details, etc.

  6. reinkefj: I disagree! Networking is for introverts, too! I know b/c I’m a reformed introvert who became more extroverted as a result of my job as a journalist. You can’t be a good journalist and be shy. As a result of my own experience, I wrote How to Network: 12 Tips for Shy People on CIO.com. I quote the fabulous Keith Ferazzi in that story. Let me know what you think of it.

  7. Networking can be very effective in your job search if you handle it right. It will be a very slow process if the networking you do is limited to meeting new people, telling them your story and hoping one of them can help you. Eventually it will pay off, but takes time to build a network like that.

    A faster and more effective approach is to use the network you have to achieve a specific result. For example, you identify a job posting for a position you want and are very well qualified to do. You then reach out to your network to find someone that knows someone at the company. Ask that person to refer you to their contact and call or email them. Explain you are interested in the company and would like to learn their perspective. Most people, especially if referred, will give you really good intelligence you can use in the interview process. If the company has an employee referral bonus, there’s a chance the person will then ask if they can refer your resume to the hiring manager giving you a leg up on most of your competition. This type of network is actually very easy – even for introverts.

    Gary Capone
    Palladian International

  8. “Networking is misunderstood.”

    The sooner people understand about helping others and building relationships instead of walking out the layoff door and not even getting e-mail addresses and phone numbers of people they want to stay in touch with, the better off everyone will be in this networked world.

    You don’t think your company is going to help you build your career and find your next job, do you?

  9. Networking is about giving and helping others. But it still amazes me that those who ask for and get help; miss a very important part of networking. “Saying thank you!”

    If we’re trying to build relationships, doesn’t it make sense that we want relationships built on respect and some appreciation? The response to a hand written thank you note will amaze you. (Yes, snail mail still works and can make a big impact in today’s technology blare.)

  10. Poor networkers tend to focus too much on their own problems rather than the problems of the people they’re talking to. People don’t give you a job because you need one. They give you a job because you’ve taken the time to listen, understand their challenges, and show that you can help solve problems.

  11. What a great post, and a great blog! I couldn’t agree with you more about Ferrazzi’s book. I read it, and it changed my life – really not exaggerating. For me, it wasn’t about a job search as I own my own business, but it was a way to grow my business to amazing heights. It is not a quick process, but it is immensely rewarding. I really enjoy networking now because I enjoy getting to know people and looking for ways to connect.

    Jill Pugh

  12. Networking is a continuous effort. When a person lands a job or closes a deal, networking should continue to be an ongoing life experience.

    What creates anxiety for both social butter flies and introverts is encapsulating networking as an individual event. The stress level goes through the roof because a person thinks “at this time, on this date, at this location I’m going to connect with people and give my elevator speech multiple times. This is waaay tooo much pressure we place on ourselves. Everyday life throughout the world is a networking opportunity full of per chance meetings. Don’t stress yourself.

    I say relax, enjoy life and carry business cards. A walk in the park can just as easily be a networking opportunity or a simple package delivery interaction from the Fedex person.

    Carl E. Reid, CSI
    Developer of Career Management Swiss Army Knife w/Smart Radar

  13. Networking is like slow crock pot cooking rather then microwave cooking!

    One of my favorite chapters in “Never Eat Alone” is “Pinging – All The Time”. I’ve been informally networking all my life. I just viewed it as keeping in touch with friends who were former co-workers.

    However, over the past couple of years I’ve learned it is very important to formalize pinging. This was due to the observation of how many people I had lost touch with over the years due to no or infrequent pinging. Sure LinkedIn has been an excellent aid for reconnecting with people from the past, but nothing beats JibberJobber for scheduling and reminding me to ping. In his book, Keith Ferrazzi states that pinging is 80% of what is required for building and maintaining relationships.

    What to ping about is another topic but basically it should be of value to and queries about others, and not about you as much as possible.

  14. I think networking is especially challenging in a time where people say that they don’t have enough time for their own family and friends. In a lot of society, if you’ve got time to meet people, you’re viewed as someone who’s not important.

    Networking used to come as something automatic. You’d do it in your community on and off the job. Nowadays with people relocating so often because their jobs require them to, it’s really difficult to establish that more intimate kind of network that lends to people wanting to recommend you for a job. Sure, there are social networking tools like the LinkedIn’s, the various other Web 2.0, yet they really leave users longing for something more.

    Myself, I never bought into the whole networking fallacy. It’s been oversold. I actually like cold calling, making contacts with strangers I’ve never met before. Sure, it’s nice to be introduced through a referral to someone else. However, there’s just a certain high of creating something yourself. In an age where people are dieing to be made to feel important because they get no support from their friends or family, a stranger who’s paid genuine attention and shows that initiative can get noticed. Then you stand out as someone who makes it on what they know, not who and the backroom deals of special favors.

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