I had seen her prior posts and the despair of feeling rejected and unseen as she slogged through the painful job search.
But this time was different. She felt victorious.
She did it. And she did it without having networked. At all.
Instead, she chose to do what countless other job seekers do, usually with no success. She submitted hundreds of applications on-line and waited for a reply. Statistically, this approach at best yields a 20% success rate, whereas targeted networking is said to produce vastly different results – with an 80% success rate of finding a job.
When her efforts resulted in her dream job, she was in happy disbelief. Despite the countless hours spent on targeting her ideal positions and putting her best foot forward, she wasn’t immune to self-doubt.
But now she could celebrate and she could tell the world “if I could do it, anyone can!”
Well done, I thought as I read this. Well done. Still, would I advise another job seeker to try this approach? Statistics are statistics and networking is still king in the world of job searching. Reigning advice on the subject is quite clear – get out of the house, meet people -- you’ll be much more likely to maximize your chances than if you do it hidden behind the screen.
Yet, so many people are averse to networking. Why?
Networking gets a bad rap because no one likes to force unnatural connections while trying to sell themselves. It just doesn’t feel right.
Still thinking about this, I clicked on another link. It was another career related article by J.Kelly Hoye, a business columnist, networking expert and author of a new book, “Build Your Dream Network.” She was recalling a young woman who had sent Hoye a follow-up email after attending one of her talks.
The woman was writing to express her gratitude. She had had an aha moment after having gone to Hoye’s event primarily for, in her own words, the “free food.”
She regarded networking as many of us do – the “you fake it till you make it” kind of deal. So, she made herself go to one event after another, but as she claimed, usually with disastrous results. She would fake a smile, attempt to speak to as many people as she could and by the end feel like a complete failure. She thought of herself as a fraud, and apparently, everyone else seemed to agree.
But, as she went on to explain in her email to Hoye, she was approaching networking all wrong.
Networking is not schmoozing. It is, as Hoye described in her talk, and goes into more detail in her book, about adding value to others, being of service, being generous and authentic.
It is about building relationships that are meaningful, focused on giving, and are long-term. The most impactful kind of networking usually happens long before you need a job, a referral or help with a new business venture. It happens over time as you choose to regularly nurture and maintain both your deeper and your broader connections.
It happens over coffee or lunch with ladies from your book club, when you send an article of interest to a former colleague, or help to connect an old friend who’s relocated to your community. And yes, it also happens at networking events when you make it your goal to listen to and help others rather than expecting assistance from them.
It is certainly a more natural way to go. It will never completely erase the discomfort of job searching or making any kind of career change. And perhaps it will seem not quite as triumphant in the end. But it will make it less painful, less lonely, and infinitely more meaningful.