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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

If Networking is still the New Black, why are people still Bad at it?

There is a typical format to the job search blog post. It starts with a paradigm shifting title like, Everything that you are doing with your job search is wrong or Your resume is just uncomfortable toilet paper. The advice in the post is typically a combination of 1) Create a profile on Linked In, 2) Monitor your on-line presence by Google searching yourself and enhance it with a blog, 3) Use Twitter to meet new people and find job postings, and 4) Network, network, network since most jobs are filled before they are posted.

Hardly paradigm shifting suggestions, hardly the new black or even a shade of gray (charcoal?) Although I give credit to one job search blogger for the good idea of using Linked In to connect with people at companies where you want to work as opposed to just connecting with people you already know.

Considering the number of posts about the perils and issues of Job Boards like Monster or Career Builder, I guess that some of the advice is actually paradigm shifting for job searchers, especially those who have not had to look for a job for a while. I personally thought that most job searchers know not to really rely on job boards but maybe my MBA program taught me a lot about job searching.

Joshua Waldman knows a lot about using Linked In and there are many declared Twitter experts out there, although this is my personal favorite posts for the links. I can put my stake in the ground for #4 networking due to the following story. I spent half of a 2004 job search doing a lot of networking that culminated in a regrouping session with a partner at a public relations firm after an opportunity fell through. Six years later, I sat across the desk from the same partner to hire his firm for some work despite their price being higher than the competition. It's a beautiful karmic example of how you'll never know which struggling job searcher will hire your firm in the future. Therefore, I will not only talk to anyone about job searching but I'll be sure to follow up with them after we're done talking.

That's my claim to expertise despite the fact that I happily eat lunch alone almost every day. That's because I enjoy inhaling my food and getting mayonnaise on my beard. However, from the networking mistakes that I have seen recently, I may be in the 90th percentile despite a tendency to get condiments on my facial hair.

The Bad:
The lack of following up: I'm surprised by the number of people who email me that they would like to schedule some time to talk or have coffee and never follow-up. In some cases, I've sent 2-3 emails with my updated availability and they've never finalized a time. If they emailed once and never followed up, I understand that things change. However, multiple requests with no follow-up is just a waste of time since I'm not going to do that much for someone that unreliable at even scheduling a meeting.

Too much following up:
On the flip side, a weekly follow-up about a job application status in my department makes someone seen to desperate with too much free time. There's obviously a balance.

Give the full picture:
I had great conversations with some job searchers who were looking for positions at my organization. I saw that they would be a perfect fit in a certain department, sent their resume to the manager, and was told that they had interviewed for a job last year and been denied. All I can say to the manager at that point is, sorry for wasting your time.

If the job searcher had told me about their application history with my organization, I could have told the manager about new skills gained, reasons to give them a second chance, or at least mentioned that they shaved their beard so there wouldn't be any food on their face.

The Good: (The sun just came out so I have got something positive to say, too)
Don't just network when you need something: The toughest thing for all of us is to block out free time for reaching out to people in your network rather than do work. I'm impressed with people who take the time to remember birthdays and send greetings. It's such a great, easy personal touch but I'm too inconsistent with birthday calendars to ever pull it off. The holiday season turns me into too much of an anti-establishment curmudgeon to send non-sarcastic holiday newsletters. I am good about updating people about when I change jobs and sending articles that might interest them. My best talent is being organized enough to reach out to someone a few weeks in advance before hitting them up for a favor. I grease the wheels, but that's about it.

Close the loop at organizations: Whenever I reach out to someone at an organization or apply for a job at an organization wherever I have a contact, I make sure that my contact knows. As a result my contact is at least prepared or possibly even ready to advocate if asked about my interests or intentions. At worst, I'll avoid a "that's strange that Deadhedge contacted you. I have no clue what he's got in mind" response if my contact is asked about me.

Someone who I worked with at a previous organization did this closing the loop when he applied to a job at my current organization. I didn't think poorly of him when I worked with him but I didn't think highly of him either. He got my phone number through a mutual contact and called me. After a mundane talk, he turned me into an advocate just because he cared enough to reach out to me.

We are all pretty easily flattered so decent networking and outreach will go a long way.


Becoming a Gay Adult said...

This was a great read. I love your humor. I never quite got the "Never Eat Alone" concept. I like eating alone.

Deadhedge said...

Eating alone is such a simple pleasure. I checked out your blog and you have some compellingly introspective posts.

Becoming a Gay Adult said...

Thanks, man. Appreciate it. I'm having a blast with it and it's helping me detox...you know, from, as Pam Slim put it "The Cubicle Nation." I may still venture in, however I'll go at it with a healthier perspective.

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