Monday, April 4, 2011

Networking: Why Most People Don’t Actually Do It

Most of the people I work with as clients, and most of the people who have been laid off whom I have contact with, agree that networking is one of the really good ways to find a job. My article last month emphasized why it is useful.

That said, I often find myself shaking my head in disbelief 

-- because my observation is that the very people who say this and believe this don’t actually practice networking; they don’t even go through the motions when they’re on their own in a job search. In other words, they talk a good game, but never really do it. They say all the right words, but their actions aren’t consistent with what they’re telling you and me.

Why is this? Why do so many people who acknowledge that networking is a good thing, never actually get around to doing it?

I’ve been studying this phenomena for some time and here’s a random sampling of fifteen of the answers I’ve come up with:

1. They’re scared. To them, networking is equated to selling and selling equals cold calling. Fear of rejection keeps them from even trying it. This is wrong, of course, but unless they understand it, it constantly prevents them from doing it.

2. They don’t know how. For all that’s written about it, it’s a confusing subject. It’s a mystery, even though everybody talks about it.

3. They tried it once, without knowing how to do it correctly, and “burned up” the possibility of a network. Now nobody in their “network” will return their calls.

4. The process is not a 1:1 process. By this I mean, often networking appears to be a meandering path, not a straightforward one, in the same way answering a job listing or ad is straightforward. And goal-oriented people, who need short-term results, don’t get quick results from networking. This results in their getting discouraged.

5. They have the “I have to be prepared before I do it” syndrome. In other words, for one or more of the reasons I’ve already elaborated, they feel they “aren’t ready for prime time” yet and need more rehearsing, more preparation, more of something they don’t presently have – before they can actually do it.

6. They overlook the wealth of networking prospects close at hand and are always trying to find the “perfect” person to network with who will offer them a job on the spot. This is, of course, a delaying tactic.

7. They confuse networking with a pro-active broadcast letter or an e-mail campaign.

8. They have a pre-structured outlook on life that says, “You never are supposed to ask others for help.” Which automatically cuts out networking.

9. They have read too much and thought too much – and, therefore, they can tell you why networking is passé, why networking doesn’t work anymore in the new economy, why it’s over-used, why people who are employed out there are fed up with “information interviewing.” Ergo, there’s no need to do it because it will fail.

10. They operate in an internal domain (the domain of “I”) as opposed to a social domain (the domain of “We”). This ties in with their approach to the world and, consequently, networking, which is interacting with others, just doesn’t appear on their radar screens.

11. In much the same vein, they’re “macho” or “macha”. Their internal dialogue goes something like this: I need to do it all myself, in sorrow or in shame (because I don’t have a job), and therefore I won’t share it with anybody.

12. It’s unfamiliar territory. They’ve never been in it before. And, of course, that makes networking very scary.

13. They believe they’re not the “out-going” type, not “gregarious” enough, to carry it off. This is especially true of people with an engineering and IT work history background. This is a prime example of how nominalization holds people back.

14. Networking is hard work and some people don’t really like hard work. I repeat, good networking is hard work and some people don’t really like hard work. Setting up appointments and juggling people who are not in with their voice-mail, going out on interviews and scheduling one’s time, all sound like hard work and actually are hard work. Just like most regular eight-hour-a-day jobs.

15. Many people equate any structured attempt to find a job as equal to rejection when they don’t get (a) asked for an interview, (b) told of a job opportunity, or (c) receive an offer. And, because of this, they feel as if they’re constantly being rejected when they attempt to network and, therefore, they shy away from it because it’s painful.

If any of these resonate with you, dear reader, it’s obviously time to take stock

by EJ


  1. I am one who knows networking is a good idea but am not sure of how to go about doing it. I am never sure how to start a conversation but this will be something that gets researched so I can get better at it. Any tips on this would be appreciated.

  2. As a a graduating MBA deep in the career search process this article resonates on every level with me. It affirms my belief that networking and soft introductions are exponentially better than the online application process. Great article- one I can read once a week to remind myself I'm on the right path.

    Thanks Jennifer

  3. I have tried networking without any result. I have found that networking with other unemployed people does not work. You need to network with people that are currently working within companies that are your target, and are able to get your name/recommendation before the managers that are making hiring decisions.

    Approach networking as if it was a business. Amount of effort + valuable contacts + expenses = Job offer (ROI). If the job offer does not materialize, then your ROI is negative and not sustainable. As a direct result of negative ROI, the networking that you conducted was not worth the effort put forth.

  4. Good observations, in some part there is a misunderstanding of what networking is.
    For me many years ago it worked great, in a new city from a couple of contacts, managed in about a month to reach over 60 people for phone information calls and a few face to face meetings, one of which came back a week later with a request to come in and help solve a problem then leading to a job offer.
    But as you state this certainly has to be approached as a slow process and it really helps if you have some angle of being new to a place or to an activity and thus asking people to help - not by offering a job but instead by providing information about their company, industry, and who would be good contacts to ask for more info in other companies - you'd be surprised how helpful people will be especially when you mention you got their number from someone they know and you make it clear there is no pressure of asking for a job or selling yourself.