Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Effective Networking

A common question is how to network. A common complaint is the inappropriate use of networking. There is a saying that "the most popular girl in school isn't." The reason is that once someone is identified as "most popular" everyone wants to be his or her friend, but he or she cannot manage that many friendships, so people feel excluded and therefore resent the "most popular," even if they do not say so to others for fear of being ostracized. Often people with a huge network of acquaintances cannot manage all they have. I hear from people who complain about repeated invitations to join a virtual stranger's LinkedIn, or similar, network.

Let me give an example. While we all "know" that networking is the way to find a new job, it may be being overused and misapplied since its "recent" discovery. It is not a quick fix. Networks take time to build and maintain. They require reciprocity, not just use. Ask not what your network can do for you, but you for your network. If you are looking for a new job, in addition to quantity, why not try another approach. Find a small number of people (say 5-8) whom you trust and respect. Form a sort of co-operative in which each person focuses on finding the other members a new job. So this means that you are not soliciting recruiters in a self-serving way for a job for yourself. They have become inured to job seekers by now and are not exactly clamoring to talk to them. However, you are telling recruiters about someone they should get to know. This is still rare enough that it may get the recruiter's attention, and you can rave about your friend in extreme terms without seeming crass or immodest.

While social networks can be valuable, please ensure that you invite people whom you already know and trust. Please try to respect the invitee by personalizing the invitation instead of using the standard one. This approach will increase the value of the network.

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