Don’t Network “too much”
I read some great posts recently about networking “too much.” I thought it was a weird idea since job seekers are supposed to network a lot… that’s where the next job will likely come from, right?
The posts (I wish I could find them again) talked about two different aspects:
- Doing the easy parts of networking while avoiding the hard (and important) parts, and
- Neglecting other things that you should be doing in a job search.
As a job seeker you can spend a lot of time networking. I remember when I finally “got it” (after reading Never Eat Alone) I loved networking. I wanted to do it all day… where was the next event I could go to?
It was a bright spot in my job search. I wasn’t focused on myself or my woes or the scariness of not knowing when my income would start again. As a networker I was focused on helping people.
I was an unselfish networker. That’s how we’re supposed to be, right?
STOP. Read this post by Scott Allen: It’s Time to Practice a Little Selfish Networking. This is brilliant.
Now, what do you think? What is networking? This is a reality check of sorts… networking without a purpose is like hanging out. And the purpose should serve you well… not just serve others.
Combining this with my first point above, make sure that you are not just giving and introducing, but that you are following up with the contacts that you make (that’s hard) and that you are working on deeper relationships with them, not just leaving it at a superficial level (that’s hard, too!).
Do that hard part of networking or else you are just spinning your wheels.
The other point, #2, is that there are other things to do in a job search. You MUST have the right tools in place, and you MUST take care of other things (clothing, your elevator pitches, etc.). It’s not all about going out to network.
In my business there are easy things and things I enjoy, but I can’t neglect the things I don’t enjoy. Perhaps it would help you to develop a 7 Habits quadrant and list the things that are URGENT and the things that are IMPORTANT. Make sure you get to the IMPORTANT things… or else you’ll be running around putting fires out too often.
Thanks for the nod, Jason — glad you enjoyed the post.
You make an excellent point about doing the hard part of networking. A really important concept in networking that not many people know about is the “action threshold”. In plain English, it’s basically, “How well does someone have to know me to take action on my behalf?”
Of course, the answer to that depends on the action. Buying you a drink at a networking cocktail party? Not much. Referring business to you? It depends on the business. Referring you on a job opportunity? It depends on how well they know the hiring manager they’re referring you to!
When people make referrals, they put their reputation on the line too, and it’s unreasonable to expect people to do that on the basis of a casual conversation at a networking event and a swapping of cards, or the virtual equivalent of that, e.g., a conversation or two on Twitter.
And if someone you know won’t take action on your behalf, then the relationship has little or no value to you, at least in a business context. “The strength of weak ties” is all well and good, but the ties have to be at least strong enough for people to act on your behalf, not simply be willing to communicate with you.
And the real magic — “the network effect” — occurs when people start acting on your behalf proactively, not just reactively, e.g., they start thinking of people to introduce you to, rather than just making an introduction that you’ve requested. Guess what? That requires a stronger relationship — the kind that’s built through follow-up, dialog, favors, small commitments made and kept, etc.