Is your networking ugly?

Aug 15, 2011

Have you heard? Networking is the answer.

Need a plumber? Ask the neighbors. Need an attorney? Ask a colleague. Need a job? Decide what you want to be and then where you want to work. Do you have a company in mind? If so, do you know someone who works there? If you answered "yes," then it's just a matter of a few phone calls. After's who you know, right? Well, not exactly…

Networking isn’t a new concept. It began centuries ago - first within our families, churches and even in the town square. Whether for advice or resources, we’ve always had networks. Their presence made us feel secure. We knew who we were, what we wanted, and who to pursue for help especially in job transitions. With our reputations at risk, we also knew to be both reasonable and realistic in our requests.

Then, came formal networking, social networking and a whopping economic downturn. Suddenly, networking gurus came out of nowhere, promising that you could be a networking pro and land the job of your dreams after a 45-minute seminar for $69.95. LinkedIn also enabled us to meet all the right people, especially if we paid for the upgrade.

Somehow this wasn't what the elders in the town square had in mind when they connected people with opportunity. The most problematic outcome of what has become basically cold networking lies in the job seekers’ unrealistic expectations of total strangers. Today, many job seekers look for the "get me in" scenarios. The concept of networking has become so distorted that individuals who aren’t qualified have taken a "wink-wink" mentality believing that they can be molded into qualifying for a job if they can just gain introductions to the right people.

And so we have professionals believing that, with the right introductions, they will be hand-picked without competition to catapult into positions for which they lack preparation. Recently a hiring manager requested help finding someone with in-depth experience with Sarbanes-Oxley, and reminded me that a candidate who recently read a book to learn Sarbanes-Oxley does NOT qualify as having have Sarbanes-Oxley experience.

This is not to suggest that networking is not the best source of meeting employers, but today as our economy slowly heads toward recovery, one thing remains a fact...what you've done and how well you've performed builds the only true case for hire. Unlike mutual funds, in hiring, past performance indeed does predict future returns.