I have a blog all about resumes, developing your career, organizing your life, and blogging itself, but I have a confession to make: I am very skeptical about networking.
Sure, there’s a baseline of networking that I find valuable. The general people-skills like listening to others, learnign more about their business and plans, sharing yours when asked, and passing along opportunities. That’s ok. But it doesn’t take long before I loose patience with networking as a process.
What are my issues?
- This is its own job – you’re self-marketing here and you have to take the time to carefully craft every message, photo, and piece of media. It seems like it should be faster, given our technology and 24/7 pace. But the ease and speed with which one can communicate should make the writer slow down. You can and should take your time when tweeting and blogging to make sure you’re representing yourself and your business or project properly. that’s fine, but consider how much work this is. This is why scheduling is so important.
- You have to become a detective – It’s not enough to produce your own message and get it to others – you have to connect with them. This means you really should investigate each invite and follow personally before you accept. Who will you be tagged with? What are they doing? Do you agree with it? How will it affect your brand – or your personal integrity?
- I doubt this actually leads to anything – This point is more about jobseeking than promoting a blog or self-owned business. You can brand, tweak, connect, and link until the cows come home, but if the companies and industries you want to join are not hiring, they are not hiring. And this is not your fault. The rhetoric of networking places the onus on the “jobseeker” (not person, mind you, but “job seeker”) to “land” that job. Sometimes there are problems bigger than you.
Still, we are in a networking world, and one must participate. As skeptical as I am, I’ve tried to find some benefits to this process that make it sound more appealing and me sound less cranky.
- Job hunting, especially when unemployed, is incredibly isolating. This does have a profound effect on your psychology. It could be helpful to talk to people, even if you’re in the same boat. Networking is, after all, talking to people. Even though I have disparaged it from time to time as a simulacrum of activity, I have to admit it can have a therapeutic value – it gets you in public again, not hiding in shame.
- You will practice professional skills. If you’re new to working or restarting a career, this is a great way to practice, practice, practice your skill sets. And I don’t mean just what buzzwords are popular today. I’m talking about basic things like handshakes, eye contact, body language, listening, and actual communicating beyond pitching.
- You can learn new skills entirely. Say you’re new to social media. You’re pretty much obligated to form some manner of internet presence when job-hunting or working your network for other reasons. You’ll learn quite a bit of technical knowledge (how to post, security settings, and so on) as well as social knowledge (how to package and deliver your message, learning your audiences’ expectations). These are yet more things to add to your resume or profile. This whole process, when approached with an open mind, is very educational.
- It makes you keep a routine. Networking behaviors give you “homework” – you create things you have to do, which can be a grounding source of routine if you’re unmoored in your professional life.