Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Six-Figure Learnings: I'll Take Networking for $1000 Alex

Six-Figure Learnings: I'll Take Networking for $1000 Alex

I'll Take Networking for $1000 Alex

No matter how cynical we can sometimes become the fact is, at least for me (and I certainly have developed my fair share of cynicism over time) when it comes to a new year you can't help but reflect on what has been, what might be to come, and what has changed. 

As we start a new year at ExecuNet, I can assure you, in between reading the crystal ball pieces written by all the bulls or bears telling us what to expect in 2012, I spent a fair amount of time over the last couple of weeks thinking about the career management world as well.

In the years we have been around, it doesn't seem possible that when we began in 1988 if you heard the phrase the Internet you would have thought it was a term from a Stephan King novel or an ad for the latest teen horror movie.  You could almost hear the voice-over booming "Time was running out; they we trapped in the never-ending web of The Internet!"  Talk about change!

Also as one does when thinking about the past, present, future and changes, I also reflected on some of the things that over time really haven't changed and for some crazy reason it brought to mind how many times I have been called by a reporter or writer who was doing a piece on career management and how the main focus of the story so often was and still is on the what a  Jeopardy clue might describe as "makes every job changer want to barf."  Answer: what is networking.

It felt like I have been talking to friends, members, reporters, writers, recruiters, and coaches about this subject for almost as long as I can remember.  Indeed, as this subject was crawling across my mind's radar screen, I was reminded of a conversation I had some years ago with a reporter from the WSJ who somehow tracked me down on my cell phone one Saturday.  It took me a while to get focused on what he was calling about because all I could think about was how the hell he got my cell number. 

Once I started to actually listen to him, he explained he wrote a column called CUBICLE CULTURE.  The column is still going strong today.

In any case, turns out he was writing about networking as a job search or business development technique, and the net of it (no pun intended) was that he wondered if it really was effective in this day and age or just something that technology and hype had created to annoy the heck out of people. We talked for quite a while, and at one point he gave me the following example which he was using in the piece and wanted my thoughts:

"...At another event, she was deep in conversation with an old friend when a fresh-faced young man starting out in financial services interrupted, introduced himself and then, after a long silence, came clean: "Well, can I get your business cards?" he asked them. "My boss told me I could only come to this event if I collect a certain number of business cards."

My answer was "That's not a relationship. It's a scavenger hunt!" and it reminded me yet again of how simplistic a world we live in, and how we are all looking for instant answers and how it is that so many people go through life worried about what's in it for them.  A attitude in life that is off-putting to say the least, and one which in the context of career management is the personification of a formula for guaranteed failure.

Turns out he liked the sound bite analogy of the scavenger hunt, but when the article was published what he didn't include in the column was what I tried to explain after I had made my flippant comment which was that there is "networking" and there is "effective networking" and the reason the word often makes the hair stand up on the back of people's necks (probably more PC than "barf" I guess) is because of the example he gave. It is the stereotypical image that many people have of what networking is when they hear the word.  They think the goal is number of business cards collected as opposed to relationships established.

What I wish he had the time to tell people is that "effective networking", at least based on my personal experience as well as the 24 years of involvement with ExecuNet is really about an attitude of simply being willing to help someone else without worrying about any quid pro quo, and actions whose cumulative effect is to equate your name with trust, or as Karen Armon, who facilitates our networking meetings in the Denver metro area likes to say, "Give first and results will follow."

She couldn't be more right.