We’ve all heard about the power of networking…over and over again. But, let’s be honest, sometimes we wonder, does networking really work?
The saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people land jobs in a company solely based off their resumes and skills sets, while others—although qualified—are passed over for an individual who knew a “friend of a friend” within that company.
I’ve been in scenarios similar to both. I have repeatedly reached out to my network when job searching (and some of those people are in senior-level positions) yet oftentimes my networking efforts have come up short. Yet, I’ve also experienced getting my foot in the interview door because a “friend of a friend” helped push my resume to the front of a hiring manager’s desk.
About.com’s writer, Alison Doyle, says that “at least 60% – some report even higher statistics – of all jobs are found by networking.”
If you frequent Recruiter.com, you should be well aware that employee referrals are the no.1 source of hire (as we’ve driven this statistic home in numerous articles). Understanding this makes it much clearer to see the connection between job search success and networking with the right people who can then refer you to/for vacancies.
But, as I stated above, this magical power of networking doesn’t happen in everyone’s situation. For every one person who actually landed a job via networking, I’m certain you could discover three more whose efforts weren’t lucky.
Why is this so?
Well, when researching whether or not networking really works, I came across an article by Inc.com writer Eric Holtzclaw. In this article, “Why Networking Doesn’t Work,” Holtzclaw explains that the issue may not lie with networking itself but how one goes about this process.
The number one rule is to stop thinking about networking as “networking.” Networking should not be about meeting as many people as possible in as short amount of time.
The more people you know–really know–the more likely you are to make that important connection you need to take your career, company, or venture to the next level.
So, instead of “working the room” and making as many connections as you can—and this applies from everything to conferences to professional mixers—Holtzclaw believes, in order to maximize the return on your networking efforts—you should focus on making a real connection with a select few/key people.
His approach to networking led me to think about a recent example of ‘selective networking’ and its benefits.
My cousin graduated from law school and recently took her state’s bar exam. And as she awaits the results, she’s actively applying for positions in the legal field.
She recently received a callback from a law firm and interviewed for the position. One of the interviewers informed her that he was good friends with one of the partners at a law firm my cousin worked at immediately following college graduation.
Now, to give you some background, this connection he was referring to was a man my cousin worked for eight years ago. After undergrad, she landed a job at a law firm in her hometown where she worked for four years. She then moved to a different state with her family and finally entered law school two years later.
Eight years is a very long time, especially in the context work experience when someone has added much more experience to his/her resume since the first “real world” job.
Yet, the entire time from her leaving her post-grad job up until that interview day, my cousin kept in close contact with the partner and her manager from her first job. While working there the two developed a strong relationship—one my cousin made sure to sustain even through time and distance.
When she contacted her former boss after the interview, sure enough he told her that the interviewer had indeed contacted him, they were good friends and he’d put in a good word for my cousin.
Now this was very recent, so the employment outcome is still unknown, but it certainly demonstrates Holtzclaw’s notion of the importance of developing real connections when networking.
Taking the time to cultivate relationships with a few key people—getting to know them and vice versa—will be much more effective when utilizing your contacts and network during the job hunt.
It’s like every day friendships. A person may know or be connected to 70 people, but he or she only has one or two people to call true friends that the person can really depend on. When you have a select few close connections you are able to depend on them much more than a massive amount of weak connections because you’ve cultivated trust and understanding (among other things) with those key people.
A third-degree LinkedIn connection may not be willing to recommend you for an open role, but a former co-worker whom you’ve kept in contact and have developed a relationship with will feel more comfortable and willing to do so.
So, during your next attempts at networking during the job search, try this quality over quantity approach and see if it offers you a much better return on your networking efforts.