Secrets of the Job Hunt


Friday, July 07, 2006

Networking means different things to different people

I came across the following article from Monster that really shows the differences between job seekers when it comes to networking. It's interesting to see how each person tackles the 'N' word. If you're a senior executive you are more likely to use networking to find a job. If you are an Admin Assistant you are less likely to use it. The bottom line however is everyone needs it in their job search toolkit.

Here are their responses about networking from the article...

A Fact of Life
Networking is a fact, a reality, even for the most isolated worker/seeker. If you see anything besides your reflection, if you link to anyone for aid, you are networking. Anonymous resumes and job screeners use filters to identify people and to explore what you can do for each other. When mutual interests are involved, it is a network, and it is not a one-way deal. I think most everyone helps others to feel better about their future and to make connections that work. Life is widened for everyone. Some people express goodwill in return, and other times they are too enmeshed in their circumstances to reciprocate, but that's life.

A Way to Build a Career Outside Corporate America
When I finished my master's degree at age 54, I knew I wasn't material for the corporate environment, because the stress would most likely exacerbate my lupus. I decided I would use my degrees in English to develop a freelance/contract career in editing and writing. Until recently, the only method of advertising I used was networking. I gave everyone I could think of my business cards, even strangers whom I thought might remotely be interested in an editor or a writer. I gave my business cards to several department secretaries at the university where I graduated, asking them to pass them on to business students -- people who might inquire about an editor. Amazingly, I've been able to cultivate an adequate amount of work solely through networking that has supported me for the past nine years.

Effectiveness Depends on Circumstances and Location
Networking is always a good thing, but I think the word networking is overused. We all make professional acquaintances during our careers; it's whether we are able to use them to our advantage during a job search. Unfortunately, most of the people you know don't know much about your work ethic or true KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities), because they don't work with you on a daily basis. In my job search, I can cite only two hires that actually came from my network, and I know A LOT of people in various industries. I think it depends on your location, too. Some towns/cities are more difficult than others, because they are overpopulated with professionals like you, and they aren't going anywhere anytime soon. My suggestion is to network outside your comfort zone as well as with like-minded colleagues to broaden your choices in case that dreaded job search happens to you. And always keep your resume current!

An Unfair Advantage?
I do not believe that networking is overrated. However, I strongly believe too much emphasis is placed on networking, putting people who do not have the strings to pull them through at a serious disadvantage. When a prospective employee is referred, employers tend to feel more assured they are hiring someone who is competent and this judgment is based on the referrer's credibility. What employers are striving to do is retain workers, reduce a high turnover rate and increase productivity. However, I believe even when people are not referred by someone else, they too should be given a fair fighting chance.

From my perspective, networking could lead to someone being hired because of who they know and not what they know, which leads to unqualified and undereducated people getting great jobs by wiping the right person's nose.

Not a Cure-All
Networking is powerful, BUT only if you've preceded it with hard work, careful planning, integrity and in a fair and comfortable manner. Networking is most successful used in conjunction with a good reputation.

Know Your Network
Networking is a successful and beneficial endeavor, depending primarily on where you live within the US. It depends on the atmosphere and mentality of the people with whom you must relate. Acceptance is crucial. Who are those by whom you wish to be accepted? What do you want? What will you present? What do you hope will be the result? Can you be yourself and still be assisted by others? Those are questions as diverse and complicated as people are. Your hopes, your dreams and aspirations cannot be shared with everyone, every time. Some dreams are deep, some dreams are somber, many dreams are hopeful, and even more are expansive. What you share and what you retain hinges on whether someone will help you along the way or stop you at every entrance.

The Role of Gender
The most difficult part of networking has been the male/female thing. I have encountered several roadblocks, including "the ol' boys club," the gentleman who thinks networking is foreplay, and the women who are engaged in an affair with the boss and think you are a threat. I entered an all-male industry 25 years ago, and it took a few interactions before the men started to trust my counsel and starting calling me first when they were stuck. I gained their respect, but they never stopped making advances. I can think of only one woman over the course of my career [who was] in a higher position and who I respect and was not involved sexually with the company president.

Both a Must and Overrated
It's a career must, because you need to keep a network of people active so you can hear of job openings. On the other hand, it's overrated, because sometimes the networking itself can be completely phony. The basic trick is to network without appearing that you are networking. In other words, be genuine! Your network must include people you communicate with (email, snail mail, telephone, other) on a regular basis (and the frequency is up to you). Networking just to network is phony, and that's when it's overrated.

No Help
Networking? Maybe I never figured out how to do it well, but it didn't help me at all. My connections just gave me names of others in management whom I didn't know. Few of them ever responded to my inquiries, and those who did respond really weren't of any significant help. I landed my current position by responding to an advertisement in the newspaper. The old-fashioned way worked for me. Next time I'm looking, I'll need to improve my networking skills, I guess!


Jason Alba said...

Interesting article... My thoughts:

1. Giving. Networking is about giving a lot and expecting nothing. It is like if you give someone 10 bucks - lots of times you can't expect you'll get it back or else you'll be sorely dissappointed, and it will affect your relationship. The more you give (or are willing to give) the stronger your relationship becomes with that person, and it will come back to you.

2. The word Networking scares too many people. I think that many people can't disasossiate "networking" with "network marketing" - and they feel dirty when they "network"!! It is true what one commentor states: that you are already networking! I didn't like it at first but I finally found my groove and asking people "who do you know that works in ...." became second nature.

3. Networking is not about having small-talk with lots of people, and adding them to your list. In "Never Eat Alone" Ferrazzi talks about ranking your network contacts and cultivating each relationship. That is critical - understanding the strength of the relationship and cultivating each one! Build the relationships before you need them! And you can keep track of all this with... well, I'll leave out the shameless plug :)

C.M Russell said...

well said jason