May 24, 2011
Why you shouldn't network
In a recent post I wrote earlier this month, "What is the point of networking? I don't get it," I addressed a Hire Ground reader on how being strategic could help him get more out of networking than the results he was currently getting.
Now, however, I'm going to advocate against networking -- at least in the way that most people think of it. Why? Because most people do it wrong, and they make networking ineffective and unpleasant. More importantly, they don't get the results they're looking for -- usually the quick sale -- and quickly generalize that networking is ineffective and a waste of time.
Here is the top reason why you shouldn't network: Nobody wants to buy what you're selling.
I've experienced -- and am sure you have, too-- people trying to sell their products, services and/or themselves at networking events. In fact, most people attend a networking event because they have an agenda: usually to get something from someone quickly, whether it's a client, a referral to a hiring manager or an actual job.
People are handing out resumes and business cards and making mass elevator pitches to each other. No relationships are being built, and everyone is seen as either a quick opportunity or a dead-end. Some people get lucky enough to run into someone naïve who will help a stranger, and most find people who are generally polite in person, but won't return your phone call or email after the event.
It's no wonder that networking events experience a 25-60 percent attrition in attendance. The very emotional thought of going to an event where you'll have to be on selling mode or receiving sales pitches and resumes for three hours just isn't appealing.
In 2009, I was talking to a fellow named Mark, an organizer for a local networking event called Seattle Job Social. He and I were having a great discussion until a job candidate walked by us and asked, "What's the purpose of these social events?"
Mark said "... it's an environment where candidates, recruiters and hiring managers can meet each other to build relationships which will help everyone in this market ..."
The candidate sighed and said "... I'm not here to make friends; I'm just here to get a job! Once I get a job, then I'll worry about networking and friendships..."
What can be done about this?
You need to change your mindset from selling into connecting. Connecting is about relating to one another, becoming interested in each other and wanting to help each other reach goals. It's about caring, generosity and candor.
When you become interested in others, they take notice and naturally become interested in you. When you care about someone else, they tend to care about you. And lastly, if you're generous, and with candor, try to help them achieve their goals, they tend to reciprocate and want to help you, too.
So instead of trying to sell yourself -- which is very difficult, uncomfortable and intimidating (especially for introverts) -- try connecting instead. It's natural, feels good and people will like you more. Heck, maybe they'll care enough to want to help you and ... that's the point of networking.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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