She’s Not a Great Networker

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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

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/hankblank

You can watch a video by Hank on Networking Tips for Young People.

You may also enjoy these articles:

Are Solopreneurs the Future in the New Normal?

How to Create a Job By Creating a Consulting Career.

Networking in My Hood.

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18 thoughts on “She’s Not a Great Networker

  1. stevefawthrop

    Hank, a few experiences to relate just from the last few days:

    1) Today I talked to a guy unhappy in his job and who has been unhappy in his job for awhile. He is going to start looking in January and has zero information on his LinkedIn profile other than his current company and title plus his education background. No picture, no previous positions, no job details of the current job and, of course, no extra info or postings. I got a “Yea, I guess I have to…” response discussing his need to upgrade his profile over the downtime of the next few weeks.

    2) In contrast, I received an e-mail from someone who found me on LI and wanted to pick my brain on something he is analyzing (he is working on a contract project with an investment firm) based on his review of my background and perception I might be able to give him some direction (point #1-he was using LI as a research tool). He was able to send me a note directly because I display my e-mail and cell phone in my profile summary (and encourage others to do so, especially if in the job hunt) so he did not have to send me an invitation.

    It was a quieter afternoon so I answered his questions for about 45 minutes. When we got through, and I learned more of his background, I said “Hey, can I pick you brain…” on a project I am working on. Sure, and we spent another 20 minutes while I walked him through a challenge I have.

    Until 3:00 PM today we did not know each other.

    We now are mutual connections and mutual resources to each other.

    3) I had two “interview” opportunities this week as I work my way back into the Seattle job market.

    One I found targeting a company through my own research on LI and the second reached out to me based on research they were doing and finding that I was a mutual connection to someone they know well and who gave me an endorsement before I got called.

    I hope some folks out there take these as examples of the benefit of give and take in the second point. In the third point it is the example of “digging the well” in advance of needing the water. I built a good reputation with someone else with no particular agenda but it then worked in my favor when someone saw a potential value in reaching out to me at this point in time.

    We’ll see what happens. But nothing would have happened without a commitment to be open and engaged in the process. It is only based on “Hey, I’ll give when I get” it will rarely work in your favor.

    Merry Christmas.

  2. For those who are currently employed, you know it can all change in a heartbeat and “being busy” is a common, but in the end self-defeating, reason not to remain active in networking. I’ve been contacted by people who I hadn’t heard from in years but who were suddenly in need of an opportunity and used their immediate needs as a reason to reach out to me (which was flattering and insulting all at the same time). I was willing to help if I could, of course couldn’t always, but it always bothered me that I became interesting to someone only when they were in need. So the caution is to avoid that response by always(!) being in a networking rhythm.

    Don’t see networking as a “get” — even when you hope it is. Approach as a “give” — in particular, attend job-search functions with the idea in mind to be helpful to others (you never realize who you know, or who you know who knows someone else, until you test yourself in this situation). Make the investment in creating some new relationships while there’s no pressure on your part. Aside from the “feel good” (which is a worthy “get” by itself), it also helps you keep abreast of what’s going on in your field/market.

    While I am always an enthusiastic responder to networking coming at me, I wish I could say I am practicing what I’m preaching on the outreach front and admit it’s not as much as I should be. But I’ve seen others who I respected for their commitment to this approach and who benefited along the way (Bud: RIP) . Hate to sound like my mom, but “do as I say, not as I do” comes to mind… 🙂

    Specific comment about LinkedIn — it’s certainly become “a Rolodex in the cloud” (if you’re under 30, replace “Rolodex” with “Outlook Contacts”) but in my experience, too much stock being put in quantity of connections rather than quality. I’ve attempted to work through close colleagues of mine to get to someone on their list of connections and heard “well, I met him a while back, not sure he’ll remember me, but sure, use my name”. LI needs some way to categorize our connections so that someone looking at them can differentiate those “not sure they’ll remember me” folks from “yup, they’ll recognize my name and should at least take your call or email” — maybe the invitations we send should include a response as to which list they are willing to be placed on. For whatever that’s worth, just brainstorming…

  3. Hi, I’m a Brit and I LOVE networking, because I enjoy meeting people in the real and virtual world and helping where I can. Yes,it was scary when I lost my last permanent role in 2002 and I was 49 😦 Instead, I decided to use the redundancy as an opportunity to explore interim work, and just ‘go with the flow’. I have found 75% of my contracts through networking and LI, in a tough and highly competitive market. Sometimes the contracts are a lot of fun and well paid, and sometimes well paid but the people…….. Well, that’s life!

    The most interesting thing is helping others. You never know how much you know until someone asks you for help! If I’m approached about a position I’m not interested in, I always post it on LI forums I use regularly,as you never know. The agency remembers me for that help (even today, it seems an unusual thing to do.)

    I even put networking to use to research and write a book, based on a dream I had in 2000. Reaching out across the world, I found 95% of people wanted to help me realise the dream – helping provide water in Ethiopia via sales of my book “An Ethiopian Odyssey.” It sold in 21 countries, largely through networking and word of mouth again!

    I know that what goes around, comes around. If you put approach networking as a way of making new friends, it really works. Shared interests and knowledge do create new job/work opportunities. Don’t be afraid to get out there – and Smile 🙂

  4. Jim Matorin

    The reality is not everyone is social, thus comfortable with networking and yes, we all get fired and are forced into networking. That is just the way it is. The collaborative tools of Web 2.0 have made it easier, but again, not everyone is social/committed so at some point they lose interest or do not delegate the time. Again, it is what it is.

  5. Hi Hank & All,

    Hank, as we are both members of @mengonline, I can probably speak for you, too, when I say that, in many meetings, members say that people only show up for “networking” when they’ve just been laid off, that once they get a new job, they never show up any more. IOW, it’s all about them. I am not judging anyone; we all have finite time and energy, so we invest how we see fit.

    Being a 25 year veteran of CMO CEO CIO “networking” groups, I believe that “networking” has a negative connotation; it’s something that most execs do as easily as they swallowed their cod liver oil in the morning as kids. It’s seen as shallow, desperate. Many people feel that, if they were “really good” or lucky, whey wouldn’t have to do it. In my experience, this is the average association or experience with “networking.”

    This experience arises because the social contract for oh-so-many people wafted into the fireplace when no one was looking. It’s toast. All execs are interim workers now, and it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Oh, well. People are confused and frustrated. This is the glass-half-empty view that most execs drink.

    Cut over to the glass-half-full screen.

    The joy. The exploration. Very few people get this, but it’s the 21st century. Connecting with people through passion, joy. Passion and joy transcend time and space. Think back to the spontaneous connections you’ve had this year. If you are skillful or fortunate and don’t spend a ton of time meeting new people, 1-5% of the “connections” you’ve made this year have been extraordinary. To make such connections, though, you have to know what you’re about, what really makes you tick. And you need to put it out there. Always. We are all snowflakes, so light dances off of us constantly, but when people describe themselves as a “CMO with a [ivy league] MBA in the ortho medical device market” or a “CIO of global supply chain software,” they are offering hamburger helper to others. Everybody responds better to organic because it’s real, raw, vital. But to put oneself out there requires insight and commitment.

    It also means remorselessly throwing away half the business cards one collects at events. We all have too many connections now, so that requires a new level of awareness. For more on this, see http://tinyurl.com/snrship2

  6. I can’t tell who you’re shaming in this scenario; your friend or the female. If it’s the latter, there could be other reasons why she doesn’t want to meet him for coffee and catch up. History, dislike, uncomfortable, etc. She could also be married with children and have very little free time.

    Lindy

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