Archive for November, 2013

The Road to Networking Roadblocks

November 27, 2013

Everyone talks about the power of networking.  It’s pervasive in many facets of our society, and with the addition of online resources, has gone into overdrive.  No matter what motivates us to network, we must do it.  Too bad there aren’t college courses on networking as they just might prove to be more relevant to the real working world than “How to Watch Television” (Montclair State University), “Getting Dressed” (Princeton) or “What If Harry Potter Is Real?” (Appalachian State University).

What kind of networker are you?  If Woody Allen is correct, and 80% of life is just showing up, then perhaps you don’t need to be the world’s most prolific networker.  In this Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter riddled world in which we all show up, the real question is to what extent do you enable and promote networking?

Last month, I found a highly qualified candidate for one of my searches.  Looking forward to having a discussion with her regarding this career opportunity, I went to her LinkedIn profile.  Lo and behold, I was dismayed to see that she didn’t allow for any contact.  So I had to some heavier lifting and found other means to reach her.

Sure enough, she was quite interested in new career opportunities.  After conducting a phone interview with this candidate and receiving her updated resume, I moved ahead with presenting her to my client company.  She’s now in the throes of the interview process with them.

Just yesterday, I was contacted by a highly accomplished C-level executive who just left his position and is now actively seeking his next move.  Once again, in perusing his LinkedIn profile, I see that he does not allow for any correspondence.

Similarly, I found what I thought might be a potentially strong candidate on The Ladders.  This candidate didn’t upload his resume or even provide a general overview along with his contact info.  What’s going on here?

One can only surmise that people who go to the trouble of establishing a presence on a business networking site would enable networking opportunities.  Similarly, on a career site, where you’ve already given your name and current position, why would you inhibit potential contact?

On the surface, disabling contact due to concerns over protecting one’s current job may seem plausible.  After all, you don’t want to give your current employer any signs that you’re looking to fly the coop.  Yet, given LinkedIn’s ubiquitous state as the de facto business networking standard, the issue of concealing intentions has all but dissipated.  Even if your employer has too much time on their hands and resorts to scanning employees’ LinkedIn profiles to see what kinds of contact they’re amenable to (the default being all kinds, by the way), what can they prove?  Besides, being contacted by fiendish recruiters like me to discuss career opportunities with arch rivals or companies in tangential spaces can be considered to be pertinent and potentially valuable market intelligence.

At nearly every networking event I attend, I meet handfuls of interesting people.  Invariably, at least one out of ten has mysteriously “run out” of business cards.  How can that be?  Amazing what can happen if you pack three measly business cards to bring with you!  And no, networking neophytes aren’t the primary offenders as this syndrome seems to occur more with seasoned mid-level professionals on up. Perhaps these folks don’t intend to give off an air of networking being beneath them.  But it’s either that or an utter lack of planning, forethought and organization skills.  Whatever the case, it doesn’t reflect favorably.

No matter your impetus for establishing and maintaining a networking presence — online or in person, it behooves you to treat every potential networking opportunity as valuable.  I’ve learned over the years that by taking an extra few minutes to engage with someone new or to introduce people to each other for mutually beneficial purposes, I’ve planted seeds more times than I can account for.  These seeds have sprouted into happenings I never would have anticipated – new business, new friendship, new mentoring, new support…even a new career.  The point is if you’re going to merge onto the networking road, be prepared to drive.  And make networking occur because of your efforts, not in spite of them.

Action items:

1.  Networking is less about being good at it and more about being open to it, committing to it on an ongoing basis and fully enabling it.

2.  Double-check all of your online networking settings and ensure that people can contact you.  Giving the wrong impression about your networking interests, combined with being prone to spam, are fair concerns.  But unless you’re a candidate for the Witness Protection Program, the long term benefits of being an open networker outweigh any potential short term drawbacks.

3.  If you block the road, then you’re blocking everyone, including potential visitors that you would wholeheartedly welcome.  And those visitors just might come bearing gifts.