The other day, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine. I asked him if he knew somebody I wanted to get in touch with. His response was that, although they used to work together, she isn’t a great networker. She accepted his LinkedIn invite, but has been unable to meet for coffee or a catch-up session.
I reflected on this for a moment: she is happy, she feels safe, she has a job, and needs to do her work. All admirable qualities. She has no time for people outside of her current world, and doesn’t see any threats posed by impending change.
She is _____________.
His experience is quite common. I wonder who wins and loses in that type of interaction. I have been networking for a long time in the Old and New Normal, and speak on the topic often. Besides companies, my key constituencies have always been the transition community, today’s youth and often the networking lost.
Occasionally, I encounter people who say to me, “networking is just not my thing.” They tell me they hate the whole networking experience, and I completely understand that. They recount experiences of strangers coming up, trying to sell them something. Solutions looking for problems. Yes, that does happen; we can’t eliminate all the fools in life, just as they couldn’t in Shakespeare’s day – that’s why we have great plays. However, we tolerate networking fools less and less, as we glacially emerge from the Great Recession. Unfortunately, glaciers in today’s world are melting faster than the economy is taking to recover; I am optimistic on both fronts.
Most of that old kind of networking isn’t tolerated anymore. Real networkers get it: you don’t sell today, you help, or you will lose your relevance and your reputation, both of which will be hard to rebuild.
I find that many people that aren’t into networking are forced into it when they lose their jobs thanks to the New Normal (yes, people still lose their jobs). I heard from a person recently launched into the world of transition on the day before Thanksgiving. They worked for a company that says that customer care is their first priority. Um, right.
I also think that many people who aren’t great networkers go to the wrong places, simply because they don’t know the lay of the land. They have a superficial networking experience set, which can lead to bad experiences and journeys. Nobody gets trained on networking; unfortunately, college programs don’t teach networking. They should change that.
Human interaction has changed rapidly. Over 70% of women take their smart phones to the bathroom with them. We tweet with strangers, yet we don’t bother to know our neighbors. I often speak with frustrated people who tell me they’ll try to contact people, or send new business proposals to them, but they’ll get no response in return. Even after repeated outreach, all they experience is silence on the other end.
Yes, we have lost some business etiquette in the New Normal. However, we are over-capacitated. That’s our world today, whether you like it or not. You just have to decide what type of person you want to be and what kind of reputation you want to foster. In the New Normal, nobody can hide. In the New Normal, your reputation will not fade away.
You can connect with Hank on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/hankblankcom
Follow his updates on twitter: @hankblank
You can watch a video by Hank on Networking Tips for Young People.
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