As if we didn’t already know the critical importance of digital networking, a 2015 The New York Times Business Section featured two articles that contain useful strategies beyond “just do it.” The points made are as relevant today as they were in 2015.
Margaret Morford’s “How Not to be a Networking Leech,” in particular, resonated with me because she explains why so many of your attempts to build your networks fail. Clients complain to me that they send in mail requests via LinkedIn, and while some requests are accepted (although many are not), nothing comes of the connection. My own experience – backed up by Morford’s article – explains why.
Who are you? And why do we want to be in each other’s network?
Morford calls out those whom we refers to as “networking parasites,” the “people who fail to understand that I am giving them information that my regular clients pay for…[people who] shamelessly ask for free advice or free services – without remotely acknowledging that these professionals make their living selling that time and expertise.” This happens to me – and countless other professionals – on a daily basis. I get an invitation to connect on LinkedIn from someone I don’t know, and the only reason I received that invitation was so they could ask me for career or resume advice. Not to become a client, mind you – but to get help for free.
Those who read my articles on LinkedIn are familiar with my oft-recommended digital networking strategy of contacting second degree connections to let them know that you’ve applied to a position at their company, and that you would appreciate it if they would review your profile and forward your resume to the hiring manager if they think you’d be a good fit. This article offers strategies for using LinkedIn networking connections to get a job
Isn’t that the same as asking for help for free?
Not really. People react differently. They even react one way if they are in a good mood and another way if they are stressed or busy. So the worst that could happen in the above scenario is that your request is ignored. But most people are happy to help, and let’s remember this: companies typically pay employees (unless they are very senior managers) when they hire someone they recommended. So the small favor you’re asking has the potential to help the person helping you.
That’s not the same as asking to connect so you can continually travel one way streets. Morford correctly notes that when we ask people for help, we “ how consider how you in turn can help others.” I’ve personally been on the receiving end of so much gracious help from others that I’m excited when I can pay it forward or return the favor. Which I have – as often as possible – by referring clients to people in my network who have job openings for which they are a fit. Or by referring one contact looking for help on the recruiting end to another contact who recruits in her field.
The other article, written by Phyllis Korkki, discusses that job seekers over 50 tend to have smaller social networks than younger people. Korkki notes while job searching, “the number of connections we maintain in our professional and personal networks is often critical.”
Truer words were never spoken, as any baby boomer who has been looking for a job knows well. If you are looking for a job late in your career, or you are trying to pivot to a new career after many years, your network is critical to getting you past the Doubting Thomas recruiters and HR people and in front of the hiring manager who can more readily appreciate the value proposition your experience represents.
Bottom line? Effective digital networking requires good manners as much as – or even more than – it does chutzpah. Morford’s post is a primer on networking good manners and is a must-read for all of us. At the very least, it will teach us that it’s plain rude to send out those default “join my network” invitations without taking the extra minute to explain what you hope to get from – and provide – this new relationship.
Would you like specific tips on how to finesse digital networking effectively for your job search? Let’s talk