Because You’re Doing It Wrong: “Why You Hate Networking” via Forbes
Everything everyone reads or writes about networking always focuses on how to do it to advance your own goals – selfishly, efficiently, designed to get what you want. Is it any wonder you feel dirty after doing it?
Susan Adam’s Forbes article “Why You Hate Networking” does a fine job of explaining that “dirty” feeling but doesn’t provide any real substantive ways to avoid it other than offering the platitude: “To me the most important tip is to approach networking as an opportunity to share something of yourself with the person you approach,” (again, self-interested) and referring her colleague, Amy Morin’s piece about how to not feel “smarmy” during networking. Morin’s column offers some good advice such as “thinking about what you offer” but doesn’t really address the main problem: Most people network solely to better themselves.
There is a better way. Instead of networking to further you’re own goals, network to help others. The best networking that I do as a cold-call and cold-email full commission corporate headhunter is based on identifying problems and proposing solutions. “Jobs,” as I define them in Modern Job Search, come as the result of someone somewhere identifying a problem they would like to solve or a goal that they would like to pursue and then discovering that they need help to do it. Finding the owner of the problem and offering them a solution, or at a minimum, demonstrating a clear and selfless desire to help, will always go a lot further than just networking to sell yourself.
When I send a “cold” email or call someone I don’t know it is based on research done beforehand and with a potential solution in hand. I never, ever “sell” anyone anything. My cold calling or cold emailing is designed and executed not as a “high volume” endeavor but rather as a very precise, personalized approach to help the recipient of my call or email solve a problem or pursue an opportunity. I work to find people I can really help (remember, companies are people too!) and I try to really help them. As a result of all of my pre-call or pre-email research, my call and email volume is lower than many of my contemporaries, however my rate of interview to offer success is much higher. Most of the candidates I send on interviews get offers. Read that again: Most. Not some, not a good percentage, not enough to get by, no – Most. Can you say that about the job interviews you’ve participated in?
Does this always work? No, nothing always works. Is there always a payoff? No, but that’s not the point. A lot of my networking efforts don’t proceed to interviews, offers or placements. In truth, a lot of my “work” is really just advice. Even so, by entering into the situation or creating the conversation from the standpoint of wanting to help instead of just selling myself, the contacts I develop tend to stick around.
More importantly, when I network to help people and solve problems, I feel good about my efforts, no matter how many times I get shot down or fail. I know I’m trying to help. That’s a lot different than feeling like I’m trying to get something for myself. Yes, when I place people I send a giant bill for my services – but that is an exchange of value just like when you finally get a job.
Bottom line: To make yourself feel good about networking, network to help people not solely to forward your own goals. It might take more up-front research work but your results will be much better.
Kurt Schmidt is the author of “Modern Job Search” and the President and Owner of Capto Systems, an executive search firm focused on supply chain and strategic sourcing jobs in manufacturing and energy. He’s also an aspiring photographer and traveler. If you’re really looking for a job, you need this book!