Networking: Have you made it part of your job?
An interesting point was made during my networking group’s recent discussion about how to stay in touch with people in our network. As I was offering some techniques I personally use to stay in touch with my network, someone blurted out: “But that’s your job!” Her point was that as a coach, it was my job to keep in touch with people that could assist my clients, it was my job to stay in touch with people that could provide industry insight, and it was my job to stay connected. I think you can catch the drift here. Others in the room began to giggle a bit and someone else retorted: “Networking is a part of all of our jobs!”
To many, networking has been viewed as a mandatory activity for sales people but perhaps as an extracurricular option for others, or an activity only to be pursued when a person is in between jobs. Somewhere the paradigm has shifted and many people now recognize it has become a mandatory part of everyday life for anyone in the workplace. Others have jumped on the social media bandwagon believing that “exposure” is the answer to unemployment or career development. Exposure isn’t the entire answer. Networking for effective results is really not that simple.
Social networking has prompted the medium for getting connected, but there is still a need for coaching around the concepts of why we need to be connected and how to develop or nurture new or existing relationships. Using social media to build exposure is one approach. But simple exposure does not develop relationships and does not develop trust. Relationships develop over time, not with a click and a connection. Developing relationships requires an awareness of a purpose and having an objective, followed by thoughtful communications that will support that objective.
It seems many jobseekers are under the impression that having mass visibility will not only get them a job, but that they will also automatically be happy with it. My assessment is that much like the rush to use career databases to post resumes years ago, the mad rush to use social networking sites to build visibility with the assumption that a passive approach leads to “happy ever after”, is just as unrealistic. Vast exposure with no plan or strategy is no more effective in developing rewarding results than the popular method of shot-gunning 500 resumes to random businesses was in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s.
The belief that visibility is the answer is misguided, as it is only a piece of the puzzle. Visibility means others can find you. It doesn’t mean that you will be prepared for the conversation when it is initiated, or that you will have the faintest idea of what you might be getting into when invited to interview with a company you may not have heard of an hour before the contact. Social networking can be a recruiter’s dream; easy access to more and more candidates. Conversely, the candidates that are contacted are at the mercy of the person reaching them. They are more likely to be caught off guard, unaware, unprepared and put in a position to act on something they had not enough time or information about to consider a reasonable approach. Flattering? Perhaps. Productive? Not necessarily. Certainly not as much as one would hope for.
There is a connection between the “job” of staying in touch with your network and making yourself visible through social networks. It is important to ensure your visibility creates the kinds of opportunities that are consistent with your goals. And, that your visibility is supported by the strength of your trusted relationships. By staying in touch with people that are able to share insight about your areas of interest, you are much more likely to have some semblance of composure or clear context the next time you are randomly contacted by an unknown recruiter.