Are You A Networker? Or Are You Just Bothering People?

Several years ago I was giving a seminar on job search techniques at an outplacement center that was supporting a recent, and dramatic lay-off at a major regional employer. It was the early 1990s and we were not blessed with the current economy. Jobs were hard to find and engineers with Master Degrees were asking if you wanted fries with that burger. One of the attendees came to me and asked if the topic was going to be as advertised, Networking? I assured him it was, and he said that he might as well leave, as he was already networking and it was not doing him a whole lot of good. You see to him, networking, was calling eight other friends, who were also laid off, once a week, and asking them if they heard of any jobs. The would say “No”, he would hang up and call the next one. After eight calls, he would conclude a day of networking. His friends, all eight of them, would call him once a week with the same question and get the same response. My hapless friend and his equally hapless associates in the story were bothering each other, not networking. In the employment business, networking is your life’s blood. It is what separates those who fail or merely survive from those who flourish. People who network, take charge. People who send e-mails, wait for answers. Networking is not just an event that occurs when you feel the need, it is as much a part of your day as having a morning coffee. You network without even thinking about it. Every call, letter, e-mail, Fax, hallway conversation, business meeting and professional gathering is an element of your on-going networking. All information you receive is reviewed and analyzed and applied. It has a place to go, you know who to call, and how to apply it. The Internet has made the ability to communicate with other people so easy and effortless that we assume being able to send 1000 messages a day means we are “one hell of a networker.” But it could also mean you just bothered 1000 people. To try and cover this important area of our business I am going to break the subject into three parts:

  1. Building Your Network
  2. Article Continues Below
  3. Managing and Maintaining Your Network
  4. Becoming A Information Broker Using Your Network

But before we start, let’s develop a definition of a Network upon which we can all agree. Let us use my earlier example of the hapless networker. He called the eight people in his “network” weekly. So why isn’t this true networking. Well, for one thing, all eight people were connected to the same information source or information loop. Calling one would be as effective as calling all eight. Further, he asked for information they all sought. But sharing that information did not provide a mutual benefit. If one knows of a job, what advantage to share with others who have the same need to find a job as you? The network never grew. The same eight contacts called the same eight contacts. The same tool was used, the phone, and no other possible tools investigated or utilized. The fact the goal of the network was never realized did not seem to create the need to improve the process. So we can assume that Networking is the planned communication, using various networking tools, with established links into other networking groups, for the express purpose of sharing mutually beneficial information. Maintaining the information debtor-collector relationship between networkers. Exchanging inlets into other networks, and passing on leads or useful information bits to be offered or exchanged with other established links into other networks. Effective networking is both a regimented plan and a spontaneous burst, based on information and leads gained from contact to contact. But most of all, the key element to effective networking, those you contact have come to be sufficiently motivated to remain networked to you that they actually will make other calls for you in search on needed information, or to you with that required information, as they know you would for them. A recruiter called me the other day and expressed his desire to maintain contact from time to time for the purpose of networking. His idea of networking, was for me to use the company resources I had available to give him resumes I did not “need.” So, his idea of networking was to ask a total stranger to engage in an unethical business practice for his financial gain. Good networking. That hapless engineer and his friends sometimes look better to me than other times. If there is networking, there is also anti-networking. It not only gains you little, but, in this particular unethical recruiters case, it can cost your reputation. So there is also a need to understand networking “quid pro quo,” (Latin for “What comes around, goes around,” part of the following section on building your network. In the spirit of this forum, the value and importance of the Internet cannot and will not be understated. But, the Internet is not networking. It is a networking tool that does not make “one hell of a networker” out of someone who calls people and bothers them. To use this tool to its full potential, you first have to become a networker. So if you are looking for the “www.greatnetworker.com” part of this article and the following pieces, you will be disappointed. I have discovered far too many of this site’s subscribers are well ahead of me in locating useful sites. But if you want to review the basics, I hope you will find these installments useful.

Ken Gaffey (kengaffey@comcast.net) is currently an employee of CPS Personal Services (www.cps.ca.gov) and has been involved in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration project since its inception. Prior to this National Security project Ken was an independent human resources and staffing consultant with an extensive career of diversified human resources and staffing experience in the high-tech, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His past clients include Hewlett Packard, First Data Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Rational Software, Ericsson, Astra Pharmaceutical, G&D Engineering, and other national and international industry leaders. In addition to contributing articles and book reviews to publications like ERE, Monster.com, AIRS, HR Today, and the International Recruiters Newsletter, Ken is a speaker at national and international conferences, training seminars, and other staffing industry events. Ken is a Boston native and has lived in the greater Boston area most of his life. Ken attended the University of South Carolina and was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.

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