From my recent blog post for Webster University about the impact of bad networking on a job search:
Did anyone ever ask you about openings in your company? It’s painful to say “sorry” to these people, and it’s humiliating for them to ask. Networking for openings doesn’t work.
Well, it was OK when you were just beginning your career. Jack got his high school stock boy job by having a friend’s dad pull strings, and Steve got a job waiting tables by walking in and asking if they needed people. But that only works for entry-level jobs. Once you’ve got a career in mind, it’s unlikely that your friends and acquaintances know the right people to talk to.
Person-to-person job searching is the hands-down preferred method! The problem with this is that most people think networking works all by itself. They’ll go to association meetings (usually made up of 40 to 60 percent job-hunters and a handful of engaged workers) and ask about vacancies or openings. They’ll pass out their resumes on the street like flyers. They’ll collect business cards like baseball cards, hoard them, and wish they had some realistic good reason to talk to those people. They hope they’ll be remembered when a vacancy or opening turns up.
Then there’s networking among “primary” contacts. Friends, relatives and acquaintances don’t like being imposed on; besides, it’s just hit or miss when you ask everyone you know about jobs. You can quickly burn up your network instead of cultivating it.
To avoid this random, billiard-ball-style networking, you need a written and researched plan of who you want to talk to, how you can make or save them money, a firm grasp on what is going on in their industry, and a thought out rationale and method to get in to see them face to face. You need a clear agenda for each meeting. You must know how to milk the meeting for further contacts by knowing—at least by key information point if not by name—who else you want to talk to.
Remember, your resume is not likely to entice anyone to see you. To generate networking interviews, you need good telephone techniques, a brief and powerful personal profile to sell your future, and you’ll need to avoid the common mistakes that kill job campaigns. These include being “open” to any kind of job; an unplanned, unfocused search; and doing it alone. You’re going to need support and cheerleading from friends and family to get you through the discouraging times—and don’t be afraid to get professional help to assist you in getting beyond your limiting beliefs.
Poor networking is worse than no networking. Meeting people is one thing, making the correct impression is another. Just meeting a lot of people and talking with them doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting closer to a new job. If people aren’t impressed or if they think you’re too arrogant, too pushy, too meek, too timid, too uninformed, not committed enough, too confused, or too anything, all that a hundred networking contacts will do is generate a hundred poor impressions. You’ll end up burning bridges that you’ll have to rebuild later once you get your head on straight.
One client was very excited because he “knew everybody” in his industry. When we did a candid reference check, we found out he was well-known, but for the wrong reasons. He wasn’t famous, he was infamous! He had to shape up in a number of areas, including going back to everyone he knew and revising the impression he’d made.
In some cases, you may not be able to repair the damage. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Poorly conducted or ill-prepared networking will only make things worse every time, so it’s in your best interest to develop a strong plan for networking prior to engaging with potential contacts.