Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why traditional networking didn’t work for me.

At the various points in my life that I was looking for work, I tried networking according to the experts. Networking, as I understand it, is someone in your group of associates identifying a suitable opening and telling you about it.

Here’s a sample of the kind of advice you get about how to network

The problem for me is that my personal network consisted of two distinct groups of people.

First my work peers are my competition for any available jobs. Obviously only a few of my competitors will either tell me about possibilities or recommend me for something they want themselves.

My second group is made up of people in completely unrelated fields. These are the people who I use as cross-pollination for new ideas and methods. Many times what they are doing is completely useless to my daily work, but just often enough they provide the nugget of a great idea. Besides, just looking at new ideas keeps you looking. Since they are in unrelated fields, the odds on them turning up a suitable job opening is pretty low.

Since I “semi-retired” I’ve keep reading about networking, assuming that I must have been doing it wrong. The results of my research are in, I’m actually following the common wisdom pretty closely and it’s not a viable technique.

In a 45 year working life that crosses half a dozen different kinds of work I’ve only gotten two (2) jobs by referral. This means that while I have gotten a lot of benefit from my relationships with friends and coworkers those benefits didn’t include job referrals.

While personal and antidotal evidence is not a scientific survey, it is telling in that if networking really worked, any working professional should be about tell countless stories about getting a job by referral, and I can’t think of a single friend who did so.

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