Scan through even just a few blogs/articles on job search tactics, and you can’t miss the “network, network, network” advice blaring at you. In particular, face-to-face networking has been touted as the pinnacle of job search 101 mandates, with networking through LinkedIn reaching mass hysteria as well.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t disagree that networking is vital.
Who you know has always been a key ingredient in life, especially in careers. So the outcry to network is really nothing new or earth-shattering.
My issue is more with a common problem that I see when it comes to the execution of networking.
Here is an example: I have sat in on numerous Twitter chats and job search discussions across social media that typically go like this:
1. Some career pro (or a whole gaggle of them) tells job seekers to network, network, network.
2. The job seekers run out and try to build the biggest networks they can.
What most of these career pros and job seekers fail to grasp, however, is that networking is a means to an end…and that end is a job opportunity.
Think about it: Who cares how much you “networked” or how big your network is? The point is whether you are converting interactions into opportunities or leads.
So you can network until the cows come home, but if you are not converting those interactions into opportunities, you’re really just, well, networking.
Now some might say that they play the odds. The more networking, the more possibility for generating leads. But that’s only true if your network is a quality one, meaning it comprises contacts who are part of your target market or who are well connected with it. For most of us, that is rarely true. We have strong connections, very few of them in our target market.
Of course, that isn’t to say that opportunities can’t pop up where you least expect it. Of course they can. Or that you should snub anyone who doesn’t seem useful to you. My point is that I have watched job seekers work a room, build large social media communities, and network, network, network like the best of them, all with very little result. Many of these people are extroverts, love mingling, and are the life of most parties, but that’s where it ends.
At the same time, I have seen other job seekers, introverted techies with small communities who like to sit in the corner at every party, hone in on the top handful of contacts and turn almost every one into a possible job lead.
So who made the smarter move?
If securing job leads is your goal, then the introvert did. If networking was your main agenda, then you can go hang out with the lovely, but still unemployed, extrovert.
See everyone thinks that extroverted minglers have the advantage in the networking game, but that is not necessarily true.
Like a good sales or marketing strategy, it’s more than a popularity contest; in reality, it’s about approaching your network with a solution to a problem.
When someone needs a job done, they want to know who to call to do it. Who can enable their business to run smoothly and efficiently?
So, the next time someone tells you to go network, don’t think so much about cocktail parties and mixers and large social media communities. Instead think about how you can position yourself in front of your target market as the person to go to in fulfilling a particular need, and how you can capitalize on that to bring in potential job leads.