The scene is Cal State Northridge, the week before the major earthquake in the mid nineties; the occasion is a career conference sponsored by the diversity students. I was in the midst of a talk on job-campaigning techniques and had just completed a segment on net-working when one of the students shouted the question “When do you start networking and how long do you have to keep networking?” Before I could answer, one of the more exuberant seniors stood up and proclaimed: “Man, if you haven’t already started, start today. You stop networking on that great going-home day, when they lower you into the ground.” To which I said, “Amen, brother!”
Here are a few generic ideas about networks. A net, says Webster, is an instrument formed of thread, twine, or other fibrous materials woven into meshes used for catching fish. Net-working is an interlacement into a fabric, a complicated inter-mingling of lines. Networks are people talking to each other, sharing ideas, information, and resources. Networking is a verb – not a noun. ACTION!
The important thing in networking is not the finished product but the process of getting there – the communication that creates the linkages between people and clusters of people. One of networking’s great attractions is that it is an easy way to get information. Networks cut across society and provide a direct approach to people and issues.
In networks today, members treat each other as equals – because what is important is the information. Information is the great equalizer. Today’s networks are essential to the job seeker and the recruiter because they are a speedy access to information. Networks are bridges to where you want to go, bridges to other contacts.
When friends or family, business acquaintances, and candidates lose their jobs or decide they want to look for a new opportunity, how often do we advise them to begin networking? We tell them, “You have to get the word out to people who can help you.” Career counselors, out-placement professionals, and coaches all preach the value of networking. Do we realize the importance of networking in our own business?
Networking has always been a critical basic in the recruiting business. I know that many still think networking with former and current candidates is the best way to find top talent. I can still hear some of the industry trainers telling us, “Do your networking on the phone or in person; don’t waste time on Internet data mining. All you need is a few names to get started. Then your goal is to get three names from everyone networked. This is the way to identify and recruit top talent. Join some associations, go to conferences, collect names and then get rÃ©sumÃ©s. This will keep your pipeline primed for candidates to fill your jobs.”
In my early days in this business I extended my networks by going to industry and trade conferences, publishing a news-letter, doing tons of favors for people, and a host of other things. In the early 1980s, I placed a diversity CIO in a national insurance company. He asked me, “How many other diversity people did you tell where you placed me?” “Just a few people,” I said. He then gave me some advice that I’ve followed ever since. “You should write or call lots of folks and tell them. This will extend your network and help you build a huge database of diversity candidates.” I started sending a few letters out after a placement. This grew to over 200 letters for each placement – typed, signed, sealed, stamped, and posted. Thank God for email.
I used to be a believer in that school of thought, but no longer. Like Bob Dylan, I believe “the times they are a-changin’.” We haven’t got time to talk to all the people necessary to build a database of candidates for cur-rent and future openings. I still believe in all the basic truths of networking, like:
â€“ Interacting with people to determine their experience and expertise and to get their referrals
â€“ Asking these people to refer other qualified candidates
â€“ Networking, which can take place anywhere – at meetings, the check-out lane, hockey games, etc.
â€“ Adding names and contacts to your networking list
But I know there is a better way to do all this. Today, Internet networking, e-networking, is quickly becoming the heart and soul of our industry.
Peter D. Weddle, a journalist for CareerJournal (www.careerjournal.com and www.weddles. com), wrote, “Networking has long been one of the pillars of successful recruiting. As one observer says, recruiting is a contact sport, and networking is one of the best ways to extend your range of contacts. Net-working is connecting with your peers and building relationships with them. Moreover, as its second syllable notes, network-ing involves work. The word is not â€˜netplay’ or â€˜netrelax.’ Effective networking is a lot like taking care of your health. Only you can do it, and you have to work at it every day.”
I participated on a panel for a leading manufacturer of health products. The subject was “Candidate Research.” Another panel member, Meredith Freeman, manager of Recruiting & Research, Willmott Talent Acquisition Solutions (email MeredithF@willmott.com), led a discussion on Internet net-working, candidate research, and candidate development.
To facilitate audience inter-action, Meredith distributed a workshop manual that she wrote. To give you an idea of what kind of training is available, read the table of contents for her manual:
1. Sources for Research
h. Discussion groups
i. Web-based networking
j. RÃ©sumÃ© databases
k. Outplacement firms
m. SIC codes
2. Company Information/ Industry Information
a. Websites – company research
b. Job boards – research/ recruiting sites
3. Google Internet Sourcing Techniques
a. Basic language
b. Techniques/File type searches
c. Google Web alerts
d. Google University search option
a. Finding documents
b. Finding rÃ©sumÃ©s – in title/in URL
c. Finding Excel spreadsheets
d. Finding Microsoft or PDF documents
e. Finding rÃ©sumÃ© books
f. Finding people
g. Finding information on people/companies
h. Finding email addresses
i. Finding alumni groups
6. Online Research Communities
7. Sourcer Training
8. Diversity Information
a. Fraternities and sororities
c. General diversity sites
d. African American websites
e. Hispanic websites
9. Niche Job Boards
The Benefits of E-networking
Let’s return to Peter Weddle. “The Internet, as the only networking venue that is available all the time, is a valuable networking resource. Networking online, or e-networking, is not limited by your location or the number of hours in a business day. Viable methods of e-networking include:
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– Participating in verbal communities
– Corresponding with newsgroups
– Keeping up with fellow alumni at your alma mater’s website
– Building relationships with candidates whose rÃ©sumÃ©s are archived in your organization’s database
– Maintaining contact with former employees through alumni database.”
This certainly beats hours and hours on the telephone talking to many people who are not remotely qualified for current and future positions. This type of network building doesn’t have to be done during duty hours in your office. You can usually get on the Internet anytime and anyplace you choose.
“Despite its advantages,” Weddle states, “e-networking is considered a waste of time by many recruiting organizations. They want recruiters to network the old-fashioned way – one-on-one over the telephone during business hours – and feel that the only recruiters who should be on the Web are Internet sourcing specialists, who typically have little work or recruiting experience and modest networking skills. But even though their use of the Web is encouraged, these specialists data-mine for rÃ©sumÃ©s rather than build relationships with candidates and referrers, missing out on the opportunity to e-network.”
– Screen in network members. Be in play; networking can take place anywhere. Get names; pyramid your contacts.
– Networking brings opportunities. Network members open doors. Make networking a “win-win”; ask “How can I help you?”
– People want to share information; they want to help you.
– Good recruiters are always building lists of prospective candidates, or people who can lead them to these candidates in fields in which they specialize. Most build the lists before they need them. E-networking simplifies and expedites this list building.
– One of the critical factors for an e-network member is the trust relationship. You have to get and give trust.
– Remember: E-network members not only benefit from favors; they also have to do favors for others. You get to know e-network members and they get to know you; these are people you can email if you need something from them and people who can do the same with you.
– Emailing, the communication channel for e-networking, demands more than adequate writing skills. Sloppy or insensitive writing-communication skills lend themselves to short-term, probably spam relationships.
– The goal of e-networking is different from that of traditional networking. In e-networking your objective is to increase the number of people you know so that you will get in front of large groups of people.
Frank X. McCarthy is president of Diverse Workplace Inc. (www. diverseworkplace.com), a Massachusetts-based diversity recruiting firm. He was a Catholic priest from 1956 to 1970, working in parish and school assignments, serving as a paratrooper chaplain with the 101st Airborne, and as pastor and director of an African American community project in Paterson, New Jersey. In 1973, he founded Xavier Associates and conducted diversity searches for over 25 years. Frank is a well-known and widely respected author and speaker on workplace diversity, recruiting, and candidate research. He can be reached at frank@ diverseworkplace.com