All the Right Networking in All the Wrong Places
It dawned on me one time while I was at a breakfast meeting for some Association of Whatever. It was the typical event with time set aside for networking before the program began. I do not recall what the program was about but I do recall I was not interested in the program that was offered.
So why did I spend $35 to attend? I had a mission. I was there to network. I was there to find people in the crowd that might help me in my job search. I stood there with a hopeful and open expression on my face and a ready smile, balancing in my hand a rubbery bagel and coffee that was too hot then too cold to drink.
I had an overpowering urge to walk out the door.
My unemployed peers had great name for these events: “The Dawn Patrol”. They cruised these venues to network alongside the sales reps, financial planners, attorneys and people who hated their jobs. The really focused networkers would even slip out before the program started. That got what they wanted – a few business cards and to “see and be seen”. There was no other reason to stay.
To be fair, I certainly have had my share of moments reconnecting to people I had not seen in a while and the connection furthered my mission. But let’s be honest. It was the exception, not the rule.
So to make my networking work I began to ask if I was networking in the right places. Too often, I was in the wrong places to find the right results.
- The wrong people: If the people I wanted to meet were not attending, I did not want to attend. A small meeting with the right people is better than a huge meeting with the wrong people.
- The wrong events: General purpose events attract general purpose people. As a professional, if I would not attend the Chamber of Commerce meeting while I was working (or more importantly, my boss wouldn’t) then I should skip it.
- Focus on the 1-1 as opposed to the 1-many. It may take more time to connect 1-1 with the people you have met throughout your life but the effort to recruit them personally to your job search mission will bring better results than random strangers.
What is true for in-person networking is true for on-line networking. Big groups are less important than the right groups. This may be heresy, but while it is true that many recruiters are taking the time to do searches on FaceBook and LinkedIn, hiring managers are often too busy with their jobs to support an active on-line presence. Sure, have a clean profile like you would have a clean resume when a recruiter is looking for someone like you. Use these tools to connect to old connections but know that the sites can be a bit like those networking events. Your most active players may not be the right networking targets for you.
Stay focused. And skip the rubber bagels.