How Not to Get Trapped in the Networking Loop

Posted on May 16, 2014. Filed under: Career Management, Consulting/Contracting, Interviews, Job Market Trends, Job Promotion, Job Search Tips, Personal Branding | Tags: , |

professional networkingNetworking, networking, networking. When it comes to our careers, it’s a nonstop mantra that keeps repeating over and over in our heads:

We need to network. We need more professional connections. It’s all about who you know and who they know.

Sound familiar? Most likely even if you aren’t saying it, someone around you is.

And either you are a networking star or a networking dud. Rarely is someone in between. Either you make new “friends” fairly easily (extrovert) or you struggle to even get comfortable with the idea much less really “network” (introvert).

But as I wrote about in “The Problem With Networking,” although the extroverts seem to hold all the cards in the networking scramble, more often than not, they are stuck in a continuous loop, much like hamsters on a wheel, gathering names and connections like nobody’s business but often not really getting anywhere with the process.

They have professional meet-ups, Starbucks chats, Google hangouts, lunch meetings galore. It seems like everybody knows them, and they know everybody. They’re feeling really good about all of it. But here’s the key:

The length of their job search is just as long, and although they appear busy, they aren’t really progressing.

How can this be if networking really is so effective in the job search process?

The answer:

Because although networking is great and the “who you know” mantra is wonderful, there’s a key concept often overlooked: positioning.

Networking without proper positioning is often a cruel sport.

It can lure you into this sense of accomplishment without really having accomplished much other than to have met a lot of nice people (and to have consumed a lot of Starbucks coffee).

Now, I know what you might be thinking, “But I’m attending meet-ups with my professional associations (aka my ‘target market’), and I’ve met a lot of people in LinkedIn groups who are in my field. I’ve asked ALL of them if they know of any openings. So how much better positioned can I be?”

There’s no doubt, if this is you, you’ve done some great things here…and it can work quite well when you stumble across just the right person who happens to know just the right person who has an immediate need for someone like you.

BUT what about when that doesn’t happen? What do you do? Most likely, you keep running through the same loop, hoping for a break.

There’s nothing new under the sun here: This is a typical sales conundrum…a lot of lookers but no buyers.

Here’s the problem: It isn’t that you aren’t networking; it’s that you still aren’t positioned with your networking to get in front of the real decision makers. 

You’ve asked them about active openings or almost active openings, but you haven’t really asked them the important question: just to get you an audience.

A really successful networker understands not just connections but audience. He or she will not be solely focused on whether a company has active (or about-to-be active) openings or whether there is a shortcut around HR (which is nice too). In addition to all of that, he or she will mostly be focused on getting positioned in front of the right audience so that the dialogue begins, not just with those who are out there watching out for us but also with people who could actually be the ones to make the decision to hire us someday.

The point is to start planting seeds and to eliminate the middle man.

Listen. If you only speak with the “lookers,” the best you can hope for is a good word someday, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but you remain a layer or two away from the person who is actually in a position to buy.

So figure out who holds the cards and get in front of that person. That’s using networking with positioning.


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Portrait of a #SoMe Job Seeker

Posted on October 1, 2012. Filed under: Job Search Tips | Tags: , , , |

by Sheree Van Vreede (@rezlady)

With all the hype out there regarding social media and its relevance to the job search, it is hard to believe there is so much disagreement about what a social media job search really entails. The reason is because there are many different approaches you can take, and social media is so new that everyone is still an amateur (no wonder how many LinkedIn connections they have or Facebook friends…in fact, those are the people you should probably be wary of).

At the very least a social media (or “SoMe”) job seeker is prepared in the following ways:

  • You paid to have the LinkedIn profile written (yes, paid)
  • You sweated over your personal branding statement
  • You set up your Twitter and Facebook info (and adctively use these sites)
  • Maybe you even built a website to showcase your resume or started a blog

The problem for most job seekers (and where the lack of consensus comes in) is what to do once you’ve established all that.

The challenge for the social media job seeker is how to determine what is worth doing and what isn’t.

In my mind, it becomes a matter of content versus conversation. Most people are usually good with one but not so good with another. And some aren’t too sure about either.

If you’ve read my posts for a while now, you’ve heard me talk about “engagement” and “influence” when it comes to social media. (Check out “Social Media Job Search: It’s All About the Layering” and “Locked, Loaded, and Engaged: The Rules of Engagement“.) These terms are pretty much everywhere and hard to miss when you start researching the social media scene.

The other terms that are hard to miss are “content” and “conversation”. Over and over again you will hear “experts” talk about the importance of having “killer content” and “engaging conversation” as two key steps in gaining social media “influence.”

As a result, we now have a social media realm overloaded with info and, most likely, fake conversations. 🙂 And while everyone is trying to be so casual about it, the truth is that there is nothing casual about social media marketing.

And a social media job search is another form of social media marketing.

So should you spend all your time retweeting and sending out links to blogs and articles (some from you and some from others), or should you strike up witty conversations all over the web?

Unless you plan to devote hundreds of hours to learning all the social media strategies out there, my advice is to keep it simple and to remember why you are there in the first place:

Play up to your personal branding statement.

The whole idea of a personal branding statement is to present yourself in a unique, consistent way across all forms of connection. So when you approach what to say on Twitter or what to discuss in that LinkedIn group, you want to be thinking about how to reinforce your personal brand. If you specialize in X, talk about X, share posts about X, engage with others who know about X.

Now, that isn’t to say that you should be a one-trick pony. If you are, you’ll drive everyone crazy, but you do want to make sure that your followers know what you’re there for. My favorite approach is through images. I like to use cartoons, casual office pics, infographics, etc. and pepper that content in with my overarching message or brand.

People want to feel like they “know” the human side of you.

Think of it in terms of a neighbor. Most of us are curious about what our neighbors do for a living. “Steve’s a CIO.” In fact, we often share that info with others. (“That’s my neighbor, Steve. He’s a CIO at XX, Inc.”) But what really makes us happy is not just to know that Steve is a CIO but also to know that Steve is a CIO who has to mow his lawn or walk his dog just like everyone else. We don’t want too much info about Steve, but we want to know he’s a regular guy like we are (something politicians pay big bucks to advisors to try and portray but rarely do well because, well, they often aren’t all that regular when it comes down to it).

Another good analogy is golf. As a female, I have heard for years that the golf course was the haven of the old boys’ network. And after learning how to play several years ago, and now participating in a weekly league, I can see why. Golf is just about the most humbling experience a person can have and yet somehow still have fun. After a round of golf with someone, it’s hard not to have some connection. It doesn’t mean you know each other’s intimate details, but you do know something about the other person’s character. And that’s the kind of person you want to help out back at the office, etc.

Social media is just another form of converting that network into opportunities.

So you want to use your time on it to make people feel like they understand the person behind the brand.

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Networking as a Job Search Solution

Posted on September 13, 2012. Filed under: CIO, Job Search Tips | Tags: , , |

Networking? Is it the solution to your job search crisis? Overwhelmingly, the experts and job seekers participating in our #TCFchat on Wed. 9/12 felt that it was…with some caveats of course =)

The conclusion we came to was that networking, with the proper plan and good execution, is highly valuable to the job seeker, whether in the IT or technical fields or any other industry. The biggest concern was that many are not really good at networking, for many reasons such as

  1. Some don’t network in a sustained fashion–meaning that they only contact their friends, colleagues, etc. when they need something from them, like a job lead.
  2. Some are great at developing relationships but don’t know how to close the deal. This simply means that they have lots of contacts but don’t have a close enough relationship or are unwilling to directly ask for job recommendations in the job search.
  3. Some don’t have a good strategy and spend all of their networking time in the wrong places meeting the wrong people.

If you’re unable to join us for the live chat, go to our Tech Career Forum LinkedIn Group page to post comments.

Or feel free to weigh in here. We’d love to hear from you.

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