Networking - Why We Hate It

Of all the job search topics out there, this seems to be the hardest for job seekers to embrace. Why? It is where the rubber meets the road in job search. It is just plain hard. It take time - a lot of it - and favors certain personality types or cultures. However, recognizing and understanding these barriers can reduce some of the resistance or fear.

1. Time

Searching for a full-time job is a full-time job - on average, a successful job search or career change takes 40 hours/week. Add to the equation work (if you are currently employed), family obligations, transportation to and from interviews, school and a myriad of other demands on our day. Suddenly 40 hours/week becomes 80 hours/week. It is both exhausting and daunting. What to do? Prioritize. Some weeks will involve more time, others less. Can you carve out 30 minutes a day to do LinkedIn searches and outreach? Can you spare an hour to go to an industry networking group? How about 2 hours a week reading articles on company or industry news? Little bits and pieces can add up.

2. Where to Start

With so many job posting sites, company websites, LinkedIn and other social media outlets, getting started can be overwhelming. One way to begin is to create silos, with titles such as 'School/Alumni', 'Work Colleagues', 'LinkedIn Interest Groups', 'Church/Life', etc. Include colleagues from past jobs or at companies in which you are interested. Join groups that are specific to companies, industries or roles to mine for connections. Don't forget people who are in your own circle - relatives, your dentist, folks at church or at Little League. Ask for opinions or advice, and you will be surprised how eager people are to help out.

3. Personality Type

Networking can be particularly difficult for introverts. For those who are uncomfortable reaching out to others, using scripts can be a big help as it takes the 'randomness' out of the conversation. It also allows one to clearly deliver information and ask targeted questions. Interviewing for information is another tactic for those who may not feel comfortable at a networking event and prefer one-on-one interactions. Interviewing for information is really only asking someone for their advice, experiences and perspective - something that most people are happy to offer. Oh yes, and you can work from a script for this as well!

4. Fairness

Does networking conjure up slick sales people glad-handing potential employers? How can the job search be fair if it rewards who you know, rather than what you know? Rightly or wrongly, networking favors those who do it and do it well. It also favors those who understand that networking is an informational transaction - you are asking to learn more about a role, company, or industry, as well as market trends. This is not a job-ask situation. It is a also a chance for you to demonstrate your interest and skills - thereby injecting 'merit' into the networking process and becoming a credible candidate with a potential referral.

5. Culture

Job search in the US is very different from other countries, where test scores, class, schooling, alma mater, nepotism and gender determine who can talk to whom, if anyone at all. For cultures in which patrimony dominates, approaching someone of higher rank is unthinkable. For others with a strong class system, nepotism skews networking opportunities. Common cultural barriers for international students or foreigners are: asking someone you do not know for a meeting, making eye contact, asking questions that could be perceived as inappropriate, or even talking about your achievements. A coach or career services office can help you overcome cultural differences.

Building a network takes time and effort. In a perfect world, we would build up our networks when we do not need them so that they will be in place when we need to call on them. Like most things in life, networking takes a back seat to other, more immediate priorities. Understanding what we do not like about networking can help us overcome the resistance. I will cover the 'how to' of networking in my next post. Until then, I have included some resources for you to explore and use:

Alex Freund has an exhaustive list of job search networking groups at www.landingexpert.com

Nick Corcodiles answers your questions at www.asktheheadhunter.com

Orville Pierson's "Highly Effective Networking" is a good go-to book on the subject.

Lindsey Honari is a seasoned career coach and advisor who works with individuals, organizations and career service offices. She can be reached at lindsey@lindseyhonaricoaching.com.