Networking For Life Or Networking Out Of Necessity?

The mantra of The August Group is “networking for life.”  It’s a great mantra that everyone should embrace, regardless if they’re a member of that organization or not.  Yet what percentage of people truly embrace continual networking?  Unfortunately, not a lot.  But this isn’t an August Group problem.  It goes way beyond that.

Unless you’re in sales or are a small business owner in search of leads and customers, most people discover the value of networking when they’re looking for work.  Unfortunately, most people only associate it with job search and discontinue networking once they land a new position.  Very few continue to network and make it an ongoing part of their new professional reality.

Why is that?  Are they lazy?  Do they get complacent?  Do they feel invincible in their new position and immune to another unexpected and sudden loss of work?  Are they so introverted that they network strictly out of necessity and stop once the need passes?

I won’t buy the excuse that they’re too busy.  We’re all busy!  Attending a function once or twice a month for a few hours is something that virtually everyone can find the time for.

When I was looking for work, I had several people tell me that I should only network with employed people.  Really?  Why?  Do employed people make better networkers?  Do they know more people than those who are unemployed?  Is unemployment a communicable disease that’s easily transferable?  If employment is cyclical, then isn’t it possible that the employment status of your network could flip at some point?

As someone who’s been actively involved with The August Group for 3 years, I’ve observed the networking of hundreds of job seekers.  I’d describe their networking as somewhat of a bell curve.  They start with virtually no networking, they lose their job and start to network, they see the value of networking as a job search tool and increase their networking activity, they find work and their networking activity gradually trails off.

But, we’re not invincible and we’re not immune to another unexpected job loss.  And just as you would continually tend to a garden you’ve planted, you should tend to your network by networking regularly/continually.  When you do, your bell curve becomes more of a straight line.

The networking curve. Blue represents networking out of necessity. Red represents networking for life.

So which side of the networking curve are you on?  What’s preventing you from changing it to more of a straight line?  Are you currently networking for life, or networking out of necessity?

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23 thoughts on “Networking For Life Or Networking Out Of Necessity?

  1. It’s sad when e-mails from those that have landed ask to be taken off the e-mail distribution lists of those organizations that supported them during their search, or when you send them a congratulatory e-mail their true intentions are made known when they ignore you.

    On the other hand receiving e-mails from those working with a list of job openings at their firms certainly sends a warm feeling even if the job openings are not in your field, their willingness to help their “network” shows through! That’s the person I want to help the next time they are in need!

    Always “pay it forward!”

    • Paying it forward is definitely what it SHOULD BE all about!

      For every job seeker that was granted an informational meeting or coffee, they should return the favor and pay it forward once they land.

      Sadly, I see so many people land and then just fade into the background. They will re-emerge only when they need something.

      You have to “give to get” regardless of your employment status!

  2. Over time, my networking efforts have changed. I rarely go to meetings any longer due to scheduling issues but I do regularly contribute to LinkedIn updates and interact with others in my network through emails or LI messages. The meetings taught me a lot about interaction possibilities. I’m still searching.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting David! I certainly can’t make daytime functions like I once could. But, I do try to make a few evening events each month and will try to have at least one 1-on-1 coffee or lunch meeting each week with a job seeker as my schedule permits. And as you said, there’s much that can be contributed via online/social networking (although that’s no substitute for in-person networking).

  3. Done right, networking is real, tangible, time consuming work. I’d argue that attending a function once or twice a month for a few hours is really only the tip of the iceberg. Call it lazy or call it the reality that it’s tough to do even with the time that unemployment affords you. Get a job and you’re crunched all the more. The better men and women among us will transcend that and make the time, and we all should be at least receptive if prompted by someone approaching us.

  4. I think that many come to networking out of necessity and then those that see the true value stay with it. Part of the issue is probably the individual’s comfort level with networking, if you have a hard time putting yourself out there to network the relief of landing a job (aside from all the tangibles like being paid and being able to eat) probably sends many people back to their comfort zone. As someone new to the area, networking has been a key for me to get to know not only people but also the rhythms of a new city. I fully intend to stick with it after I land not only to serve myself but to also pay it forward/back.

  5. Most of the job leads I receive from the mailing list are for marketers, IT personnel, engineers or other positions which are far afield from my sphere of expertise. However, I stay on the list, continue to attend events and ask for informational meetings. One of these days, I will find a position as a cross-cultural trainer because an employer is going to value the 12 years I spent in Paris, France, the fact that I learned Spanish on my own. and my ability to be an interactive listener.

    On the networking softball team, I am somewhat of a left fielder. However, I was told by the leaders of several networking groups that everyone, no matter what their field, can relate to education or training, and all professionals need to know how to write effectively. What I offer are intangibles rather than percentages or figures. Instructors also use the bell curve to plot student grades.

    I have learned to teach others what I do best through stories: this is what I took away from the workshop facilitated by Sue Schnorr back in August 2009. Arthur, you were there, and I continue to revise the 50 Networking Tips we were sent.

      • Arthur, thanks for this great article, and Lori, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the workshop and are still using the tips. You are right; clients value the overseas living experience. I know from experience, as I did inter-cultural consulting as well. Reach back to me, and I’ll give you some tips on a couple companies hire in that area.

  6. I am gregarious. However – my lack of networking has nothing to do with complacency or a feeling of invulnerability – it has everything to do with not knowing how to approach a random suit in a room. I stand around and if I happen to hear something yay, but otherwise – I’m not a small talk person. Topical, yes, but random niceties – no. I could never be a salesman – and most people cannot. Executives tend to be the social butterflies of the world – the people who actually do the work tend to be more focused and context sensitive. I’d go to networking training if it exists for free… but until I know how to actually do it, I’m not going to have it be my first line of getting a job. sadly, I understand all to well, that networking should be my first line of defense against continued unenjoyment. How do you take a technical (yet socially capable) person who has no interest or inclination toward light social conversation with random strangers and turn him into somebody who can walk up to a suit and start talking with little or no common data to work from?

    • Good points and an even better question! Of course, no easy solutions and everyone is different.

      I usually tell people that the first rule of effective networking is having a “give to get” philosophy. Rather than overtly selling yourself and your skill set, find out how you can help someone. Can you share an article or resource you’ve come across that might answer a question they have? Can you point them in the direction of a group or organization that would help with a need they have? Can you connect them to someone within your network that might open a door for them? Most people tend to respond favorably to an offer of assistance. And, most of them tend to try to return the favor.

      It might be easier for you to be more of an active online networker (social media) than an in-person networker. But, don’t give up entirely on in-person networking as that’s often of better quality. Try going with a friend or colleague to an event and see if you can share with introductions, approaching others and being approached. Sometimes there’s strength in numbers and the perceived “risk” is reduced.

      If you’re looking for work in the Rochester area, if you haven’t already done so, make sure you look into The August Group, ABCPNG, New Horizons Networking, Rochester Works and Career Navigator. There are other networking functions in town that are not specifically employment-related but are still good events like Digital Rochester. There are also industry-specific associations and networking events too. The weekend business section of the D&C has a listing of upcoming events you can look into.

      Again, no easy answers, but hopefully some of this information will be useful in your search!

      • Good stuff Arthur, thanks for responding. You are right about the ‘strength in numbers’ concept. Humans are more attracted to other humans who arrive with friends. It shows that they are pre-selected and adds to their perceived social value, making the people they then meet more comfortable. Never a bad thing. The August group is on my short list of things to do… thanks again.

      • The August Group (www.augustgroup.org) meets weekly at different times. I usually advise people to check out the different meetings as they have different meeting facilitators with different styles. You might find one to be more enjoyable than the others based on the “personality” of the group.

        They also have a Career Fair coming up on May 16th that you’ll want to add to your calendar!

  7. Pingback: Three Reasons to ABN (Always be Networking) « Robewanow's Weblog

  8. A very honrst article. I now appreciate the need for networking as part of life. I have joined two community groups that I plan to stay active in. They meet at least monthly. The regular networking groups provde a great launch each week and I will participate after landing as I can.

  9. After working in the same industry for many years and wanting to change careers, I was astonished at all of the wonderful resources that are available in our area for networking and education (absolutely free!) It has been an epiphany for me! I have met fabulous and talented people that otherwise I would have never met. Additionally, there is such a great need for volunteers in so many organizations. Networking is for life and it certainly has enhanced mine greatly!

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