Discussion: June 15, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

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A reader says:

Everyone talks about networking as the best way to find the right job. There must be a key to this approach beyond just going to networking meetings and signing up with one of the online social networks. What advice can you give me about how to do it right?

In today’s Q&A I tried to outline some of the parameters of good networking. In a nutshell, I think networking is really about making friends. It’s got virtually nothing to do with getting a job or with any other kind of “payoff.” You do it because it makes life and work more enjoyable—and because giving something back makes your professional community (and the world) a better place. And when you live in a better place, somehow your life becomes better, too.

In the newsletter, I talked about what makes for good networking: Common ground, value and time.

What’s your experience with networking? Do you do it? Why? Has it paid off? What parameters do you believe make for good networking? (Should we even call it networking?)

Please share your experiences and comments!


  1. Nick hits the nail on the head.

    The key is this: do not approach your networking from a TRANSACTIONAL perspective—people will figure out pretty quickly that you are looking for something from them.

    Approach your networking from a RELATIONAL perspective—it’s about developing, cultivating and nurturing relationships with people.

  2. I agree on networking being relational. When I have relationships with folks, I have a better quality of life and business. I am in transition and some folks will shun you if you can’t get them to a company or sales lead. Sad but true.

  3. Nick, you have hit on the misconceptions of networking and explained them well in the newsletter. Whether online or in real life, relationships are key. In addition,as you noted, the numbers matter but not the way most people think. More followers on Twitter doesn’t mean a better network. The more followers, the more noise, the less conversation, the less relationships. Thank you!

  4. The three “R”s of networking could be . . .




    That would be a network beneficial to everyone involved.

  5. The networking event that is set up like a cocktail party…much akin to a bunch of sharks swimming in lazy circles with their eyes on any prize that might be able to offer them a job. I have been to those…they offer nothing to anyone, at least in my experience.

    I do utilize Linked for a certain amount of networking, it’s like a lead generator….however that medium in and of itself also has many flaws too. For example the L.I.O.N groups the power users who have over 500 hundred connections and can’t tell me the first thing about one of them…..

    I take the the time to get to know each of my connections, and can tell you something about each one of the 90 or so that I have. I have engaged them in conversations through postings or emails etc. I have helped some with resumes or cover letters etc. I check in with them if I have not heard anything for a while….networking is like making friends, it can be instant but generally takes time…..

  6. The hardest, slowest, bestest way.

    I’ve been out of work for a year and a half. After 30 years on the job, I was a bit of a lone wolf. So lacking in basic social skills (yes, you can sometimes get away with that when you’re the boss), I would have rather crawled into a hole and died than network because I had the conventional image of networking as soul-selling. I don’t mind renting my soul for reasonable rates, but I try to draw the line at selling it. With this old view of networking in mind, and a corresponding collapse of my confidence not only as a manager but as a human being, I rapidly fell into clinical depression.

    After several weeks of therapy, I was able to drive about short distances by myself. As destiny would have it, the guy whose workshop on networking I had attended just before my breakdown was giving part 2 free at the public library just around the corner. I tried not to let my darkness overcome the room while I listened again, trying to gain the courage to partake of this formidable process called networking.

    It was a much smaller crowd this time (the first one filled the room), so I hung around afterward and tried to be normal (difficult even before my fall). While my life was trying to absorb all this and project positively into the future, I overheard a small group enthusiastically describing something they had attended earlier that day.

    I turned out to be a Work Search Roundtable. I had known of this earlier, but I thought it was just a buncha guys sitting around the table talking about jobs. (job club-not the same thing)

    It was actually a practical workshop on networking. Underwritten by a local university, for five bucks (less if destitute–it is now a non-profit supported by area faith groups[non-demoninational]that will pay for you if you are a part of their congregation) you can sit in a group of 15-40 people for two hours and actually practice talking to someone you don’t know. (We do other things, too, but always, always, always we do the thing we all hate the most first–practice our verbal resume with someone we haven’t met yet.)

    Much to my shrink’s chagrin, joining this group probably shortened my therapy by at least six months. (Just kidding about the chagrin–a good therapist’s goal is to get you otta there ASAP, and she was a good therapist.)

    As the group progressed, 2 or 3 other smaller groups were started at area churches.

    We have a few “long timers” in the group that are becoming networking superstars (I am not one of them, but getting better each week.), and getting more interviews and offers.

    The confidence I gained by working with this group landed me a position. Unfortunately, I “crash-landed” (didn’t make the 90 days), but I walked, not limped, away.

    The first place I went back to was the roundtable.

    I’m still a horrible networker, but I recently survived my first pink slip party, and I may actually start enjoying this one day.

    I’ve gone on way too long, so I’ll bow out here and just pose the question, if a clinically depressed guy can form the first steps to humanistically network, why can’t you?

  7. Got laid off in 2001 and thought “How long can this recession end?” so I went back to school and got a certificate for six months. Got out of certificate class (The certificate is and was very valuable) but no jobs were available.

    Went on Monster every day. Called recruiting firms weekly to remind them I was still out there. Finally got ahold of the whiff of desperation the recruiters were feeling in that thousands of people were calling weekly to remind them they were out there and still no jobs.

    Joined Wind (my friend all but dragged me) (www.windnetworking.com). Saw 200 people in the basement of a church and over a series of a few weeks, came to realize “Its not me, its the economy!”. The quality of the people there was very high.

    We formed a sub-group to do an actual software project for WIND. We formed ourselves as a working software project. We had a user, specs, code, qa, etc. All while doing this we kept each other going and became friends. When we started meeting at my house, my one benefit I could offer was very good coffee.

    Over a long period of time (This is 2001 and the economy had just tanked) we found jobs and started referring each other into those jobs.

    Most of us are still friends.

  8. I’ve found you can divide the world in half regarding networking. Those that get it, and those that don’t. I don’t mean the mechanics (which those new to it struggle with) but the heart of it, the golden rule core of you don’t just get, you give and if you do, what goes round comes round.
    Nick captures networking extremely well, and succinctly. He’s discussed this before and I have pointed people to his site to find the basics in the archives. This piece adds to it.
    I’m 71, in my earlier years, and in a different era where traditional ad answering was the norm, I found my first jobs that way, and stuck around in them. After 55 it was a different world, and even though I’m a black belt introvert, I understood networking and all (5) of my post-55 jobs came from networking.
    As Nick pointed out it takes time to network. Time presents one of the ironies of networking. The better you are at building a network, the more time and effort it takes to maintain it. But if you heed the other advise about knowing the people in your network, and building a network comprised of networkers, collectively the network helps each other manage it. You make a point of keeping in touch and offsetting the time that flies when your having fun.
    The best advise you can give someone who is struggling with networking is to subscribe to Nick’s site, buy his books and go through the archives for the networking advise. After that, if they have any questions, get back to you. If they don’t, they aren’t networkers

  9. Thank you, Don

    Your background and success are very encouraging to me. I’m from a similar era (I’m 6 going on 60). I annoy my friends when I keep telling them to log onto Nick’s site, but what else can I do that would actually help?

    So I’m happy to annoy them. I’ve even handed out business cards that have only this printed on them: http://www.asktheheadhunter.com
    click onto free e-newsletter

    Again, thank you everyone for sharing your comments. They’re pretty much the most useful I find anywhere.

  10. @LKitsch: I like that word, transactional. Says it all. That’s not what networking is about.

  11. I have to say that I cannot take credit for that term. I first heard it many years ago in regards to politicians:

    Some politicians only call donors and community leaders when they are looking for contributions or favors. Those guys are “transactional.”

    Others call donors and community leaders all the time, just to check in and see how things are going, or to get their opinions on a pending piece of legislation. Those guys are “relational.”

    In the long run, the relational politicians are more successful than the transactional ones.

  12. @LKitsch: Interesting how the success of politicians breaks out. But in NJ we have a third category.

    I was mayor of my town for 3 years, and very active on my town’s behalf on the state level.

    The third category of politicians is “corrupt.” Perhaps that’s a sub-category of “transactional,” as in, “Let’s transact a deal. Here’s some money. Use your relationships to get me what I want.”

    In the short term, this seems to succeed. In the long term, those politicians just get “a long time” in the slammer.

  13. I really favor the idea of making my network a face to face deal. I know what they need/are looking for and get a true sense of who they are.

    Flip side: I go to networking trainings and EVERYONE seems to be trying to build the biggest list! It just doesn’t work for me to network outside of the area where I live.

    I am a Career Coach working with community justice candidates. We need to keep it real … and three thousand miles away is not real for me.

  14. I was so relieved when I discovered that networking wasn’t the sort of shallow, quantity-rather-than-quality thing that I’d previously thought it was. Like Unemployed and Clinically Depressed, I struggle with that kind of setting, too. I prefer to make fewer but deeper connections.

    I just wish I could get people I know to take this seriously, but they seem very resistant to the idea. Too threatening, perhaps. Maybe it’s easier to send out resumes shotgun-style and just complain when nothing happens.

    The other side of the coin, though, might be that we who “get it” have a lot less competition.

  15. 2 useful things to think about networking.
    Doing it well you develop new interests.
    Do networking well: You’ll be interesting.

  16. @JaneA: Deeper connections are what it’s all about. But don’t discount healthy, light connections.

    Duncan Watts wrote an outstanding book about the science of networks that points to an interesting phenomenon: if and when you actually want something from your network, it’s the people on the periphery that are most likely to be useful to you.

    Watts is not a self-help guy. He’s a theoretical mathematician who writes so the rest of us can understand it!

    Check out the book:


  17. I can’t be as specific as Nick is as to reference, but I agree. I read somewhere not too long ago that people connected to their opportunties 3 steps away, helped by strangers in their network via someone they did know. That rarely do your immediate contacts connect you to the hiring manager or decision maker. Their help is to be good networkers and spread the word so to speak and/or noodle your need over and zero in who they think can be a better contact than themselves, and know you well enough to share that contact.
    I know that’s true for me. I have found my jobs through networking but in all but one case, the key contact came from someone I was connected to by my main contact. They didn’t come from my main contact.
    There’s a somewhat related piece of advise as well. Don’t assume. Don’t assume that for example that if you are a C level person looking for a C Level opportunity, that your winning contact will come from a C Level person. You can’t assume who knows who. An entry level admin can know a CEO brother in law.

  18. Thanks for the reminder. I seem to recall that Dick Bolles said something about the strength of weak ties in What Color is your Parachute.

    I guess that the key word is “healthy”. As I see it, running round in a “networking” meeting in “me-me-me” mode isn’t healthy.

  19. I’m glad networking is just about twitter or yammer, I would feel lost.

    I think doing a good job for internal and external customers is the best form of networking. People remember good service.