Does Networking Really Work?

March 30th, 2007

I’ve been actively networking for about a year. I’ve met some amazing people that have been in transition for the normal reasons (company downsize, strategic change, etc.). And I mean amazing – these people have amazing resumes and abilities.

Of course, networking is the best and most common way to find a job, right?

Well, how come so many people are… still… networking? Some have been actively networking for more than a year.

Does it really work? Or is all this talk about networking just another fake statistic that applies to such a big demographic that it isn’t applicable to most people (like the unemployment rate).

When we network are we doing something as blind as these ducks, following one another (who says the leader really knows what’s ahead?)?

Ducks following a leader - photo credits Jim Rider - South Bend Tribune (http://www.biasecurities.com/photos/best_of_2003/picture1537.aspx)

Please share your stories or thoughts on networking – is it a fad, is it bunk, or is it really something we should be investing our time in.

(note: don’t share ideas like “networking is great” or “networking rocks” … I’d like you to share a real story (and then put “networking rocks” at the end if you want) :) … and this does NOT have to be limited to just job search stuff…. share any networking successes you have had.)

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29 Responses to “Does Networking Really Work?”

  1. I networked while on jury duty. Not kidding. Wrote about it on my page of the Montgomery County Blog. I met two people while on jury duty who I plan to work with in the future.

    Networking — whether in person or via listservs — works. Two years ago, when I was actively seeking freelance work, I got two great jobs through a professional listserv. I wouldn\’t have even heard about the jobs if I hadn\’t decided to get out there and meet people. One job was proposal based. The other was offered to me based off of feedback I\’d provided to the list on various topics.

    Anyone who claims networking is a waste of time… well, they\’re not worth my time.

    – Robin

  2. Laura Moncur says:

    The benefits I have experienced with networking are more intellectual than job related. Exposing myself to other people who do the same thing that I do really keeps me stimulated. I get great ideas. I find out what isn’t working for other people. I return wanting to work instead of feeling like it’s another day in my life.

    Networking rocks for me, but it has never found me a job. It has just kept my current position vitally alive and active.

  3. Adam Kovitz says:

    Networking is NOT a fad.

    The term “networking” used to describe the communications/social ettiquette we are developing, both online and off might be, but I feel it is a term that is here to stay. Others might refer to it as gabbing, kibbitzing, collaborating, sharing or teambuilding, but it’s the same.

    Are there a lot of folks out there networking? Sure! Why? It works.

    Think about it. If I network to get a job, and I get it. Does that mean I stop? No!

    My networking takes on a different shape…
    1.) I might network to find the next best job (golden parachute)
    2.) I might network with others for information to enhance my skillset and knowledge-base
    3.) I might network with others to establish strategic alliances
    4.) I might network with others to develop business and drive sales

  4. As far as the job hunt goes, networking does work better than the traditional job board approach in terms of how far in the process you advance. Having the human element in place allows people to push things ahead for you. Does that mean it works? I can\’t say yet. I\’ve been conducting my search for 2 months and what I can say is that I\’ve made far more progress in getting an offer when I started out having someone networking on my behalf. One thing I\’m sure of, the job board approach is a dead-end for many and generates little more than spam.

    That kind of networking though is separate from the many, many other great things I\’m reaping. In this respect, yes it totally \”works\”! Like others, I\’m meeting talented people ready to ask for and share expertise and as a result of the interactions, I\’m developing and helping others as well. Another very important way networking \”works\”, is by the many serendipitous paths that are created that lead you in new directions.

    Oh yeah, Networking rocks! :)

    Nadine Turner

  5. Works for me. Two stories:

    In 2002 I left a role in New Zealand and moved back to the US to find my next challenge. I set about letting my network know what I was looking for. After about four months, one of my network buddies called to say he had heard about a job that might fit me perfectly. It did – I was off to run a company in Thailand. If I had not clued my network in to my search, this role would never have found me.

    In 2006 I downsized myself out of a role here in the US. As before, I relied mostly on networking to speed my job search. But it turns out I got something even more valuable out of my network this time. This time I had the chance to provide pro bono coaching services to folks I had met through my networking. As the months went along, I found myself spending less time worrying about finding a “real” job and more time figuring out how to help more folks in my network. I found that I was pretty good at it, and loved doing it, too. That led to decisions that will take me in an entirely new direction for the next phase of my career.

    Going forward, I’m sure most of my clients will come from my network. Can’t see it happening any other way.

    Does networking work? For me, yes!

    Kent

  6. Drew Lopez says:

    Hands down, networking is the best thing to do to help find a job, advance your career or learn something new.

    The networking I did was instrumental in my brother finding a job. I get into the details, but I just joined the blogoshere so let me put in a shameless plug and have you go to my blog and read it yourself.

    Networking rocks!

    Drew

  7. Jason,

    As everything in life, Networking as well as crafting a good resume, interviewing skills and carrying out a careful job search, are skills that need to be regularly polished in order to gain control and confidence.

    I was once a “victim” of a wrong networking idea because a former boss “sold” her skills (not exactly her technical skills…) to one senior executive who decided to promote her… as for me, a few weeks later I was laid off because that executive “decided” that I was rather “expensive” and I hadn’t “experience” dealing with corporate clients.

    Every experience like this one in the corporate world (no matter the outcome…) should make people learn how some things work “backstage”, therefore, I got the best lesson: Thanks to JIBBER JOBBER and My LinkedinPowerForum, I’m not only learning and polishing my Networking skills, I’ve created a first formal contact with a colleague working at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in NYC.

    The RIGHT Networking process begins to work for me…

    Kind regards.

  8. billiesucher says:

    Here’s my recent (as of this week) story about how important networking is to me as a career consultant. Few weeks ago a consultant who resides outside of the USA got my name from an executive coach here in the Midwest. We spoke back & forth on the phone a couple times & e-mailed about his need for a “local” consultant to help with one of his project assignments here. Bottom line, I got the consulting job, thanks to networking. There’s a line one of my friends in the Chamber has about networking, and I think it’s pretty cool — people like to do business with people they get to know, like, and trust. “Like and trust” are really important words, I think, when it comes to networking. I’ll reiterate what others have said here, “Networking Rocks!”

  9. Jane Greer says:

    For months after I lost my job, I was in the pits. I halfheartedly went through some of the motions of job search and career pursuit, but, frankly, the only reason I got most of the work I did was because of my friends and colleagues. Friends recommended me to their colleagues, and colleagues recommended me to their friends. These weren’t people I “used” when I needed them: they were people I’d been a good friend to for years, and who had been good friends to me. And when I was really needy, they carried me for a while. Now I’m back on track and prepared to help them in the same way if, God forbid, they ever need it. THAT’S networking.

  10. Juli Monroe says:

    Yes, networking really works. I found my last job entirely through networking, and it made me such a believer that I just kept on doing it. My last job was in sales, so networking made sense as a way to grow my client base. But as I continued to do it, I discovered something. Networking is the path to employability for life. It is the ultimate job security. If you build the right network, and work it properly, you will never have to be unemployed any longer than you want to be. The only problem I discovered with my networking? I didn’t build the right network for the job I had. What I built was the perfect network for the job I wanted, starting my own business as a networking coach. So I quit my sales job, started my own business in January, and right now have enough clients (all through networking) to cover all business related expenses. Oh yeah. Networking works.

  11. Rand Bateman says:

    I think networking is probably the most critical function over the long term. All of us are effectively looking for a job all of the time. To a service provider, like an attorney, accountant, etc., everyone you meet is a prospective employer (i.e. client). However, it is often not a direct connection. I get much more work from people who were referred to me by someone I networked with than I have ever received directly.
    The same is true for a job search. In law school I worked for a firm in Texas. The firm made me an offer and then went through a scary period due to the death of the senior partner. Unsure if the firm was going to have a place for me I sought work here in Utah. Ironically, one of the attorneys I applied to here knew the attorneys I had worked for in Texas. I had barely walked in the door from my interview here when the firm in Texas called and said they had worked things out and everything was good to go. The next morning, I got a call from the Utah firm asking me to join them instead. Thus I benefited not from my own networking, but someone elses.
    This seems to be a common thread, as in law school my networking helped one of my friends find a job at a time when legal jobs were scarce.
    I think many will find that networking will often let them help others more directly than they help themselves. Karma brings it back to you.

  12. Bengt says:

    Networking does work, in several ways. I am active at XING, LinkedIn and some of the LinkedIn-related groups at Yahoo. Networking gives me a chance to share and gain knowledge, both are important to me. I also meet new people (on the net and in real life).

    And about a month ago a recruiter called, he had found my profile at LinkedIn. I got an interview with his client but it turned cold. Still, getting a serious call from a recruiter was great :-)
    Bengt

  13. Jason,

    I think much of the reason that there is even a discussion on this is that “networking” means different things to different people. To some it means passing out as many business cards as possible and telling everyone “if you hear of anything, let me know”. When this inevitably proves to be unsuccessful it proves to them that “networking” doesn’t work.

    Knowing you and that we share a common idea of what networking really is I would have to say it most definitely works. I recently landed a new position (I start Monday – yeh!) which was presented to me through a recruiter. However, when you look at it, a network contact was the one who originally introduced me to the recruiter. After the introduction the recruiter and I had a number of discussions but there was nothing in the pipeline at that point. Shortly before Christmas, another networking contact shared an update letter that he used to refresh his name with recruiters which generated excellent results. I made my version of this letter and sent it out to my recruiter contacts which included the recruiter the first networking contact introduced me to. Two days later she contacted me about the company where I’ve now landed thinking that there may be a position opening there. Clearly, the “refresh” letter had the desired effect. I had my first interview between Christmas and New Years. During this time I also talked with a third networking contact who had recently found a position at another division of the same company. So although you can say the recruiter found me the job I believe I really found it through networking. Networking worked for me.

    Mike

  14. Networking while in transition can generally be better defined as asking for job leads. That is not networking. Meanwhile, connectors are people who understand and grow their network to make relevant connections from referring a dentist to recognizing business needs, aware of resources and filling the gabs. win:win:win.

    Most people start and stop networking during a time of need. They have fear (fear of missing what ever it is they need and how to network). They also network with the wrong, or easiest to reach. That is where your duck analogy fits in.

    My case in point: I have been connecting and public speaking long enough to see trends in when people “show up”. In my experience, many executives say “I should have started networking long ago and more consistently”. Then they get what they need and 18 month later here they come again – “I should have started networking long ago and more consistently. I am not talking about only going to networking events or posting online – I am talking about being viewed as a resource and connector.

    In summary, the most connected are always networking and adding value. they ask great questions and listen. If you are asking, hey what about me? You are too late in the game – start adding value – make connecting deposits before you withdraw and don’t stop when you get what you are looking for.

  15. Jason,

    I recently worked with a client who wanted nothing to do with networking. She told me that she “wasn’t that kind of a person” and just didn’t feel comfortable meeting new people. She had been with the same company for 25 years before she was downsized and practically all of her professional connections were employees of the same company. So I looked for ways to help her expand her network within the one community she was most comfortable with…her previous employer. After conducting a search on http://www.corporatealumni.com, we found out that her previous employer had a formal alumni group. The group was hosting a winter holiday party and my client agreed to go. At the party, she ran into a former colleague who told her that an old boss of hers had recently joined a boutique financial firm. My client contacted this boss, just to reconnect, and found out that he was putting together a new technology team. He had always been impressed with her skills, knowledge, and loyalty and she was offered a job a few weeks later. Of course, it doesn’t happen this quickly or easily for everyone, but the takeaway is this…If my client chose not to leverage her connections, she probably would not have known about this position and might still be in search. Yes, networking works…big time.

  16. Fred says:

    Networking definitely works! I wouldn’t have my current job if it wasn’t for networking. I have a great job where I am able to use my skills. If it wasn’t for a good business friend who I was networking with during my job searching I would have never found this job. They didn’t know about me and I had never even heard about this company. My friend heard they were looking for a person with my skills and referred them to me. It was a great fit and they offered me the job the next day.

    Networking rocks!

  17. Networking does work. In today’s enviroment there is such a stronghold on jobs and emerging jobs, that many times the help wanted ads and Monster websites of the world do not get the call. The individual does, due to the fact that someone may call a collegue as they are talking suggest the challenge they are faciing and the collegue responds ” Hey I know Mary is looking and she would be perfect she has all the skills that you describe.” That is were many actively looking candidates get the door shut-even before it is open.

    Keep networking!

    “You were born to win, but to be a winner you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” – Zig Ziglar

    George Murray
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/georgecmurray

  18. My whole profession is about networking. But not in the way it is often used/abused. Networking “rocks” when it has an ongoing “give” rather than a “take” focus. Contact development and nurturance done generously and without agenda as part of a commitment to and an abiding interest in others leads to better information, increased visibility, positive professional reputation. It is not a job search technique; but rather a way of life. Every friend, every client, every opportunity I have been fortunate to have in my life has resulted from my responding to or offering to help another.

    Focus on what you can give….not only what you need….and you will draw others to you.

    Sheryl Spanier
    http://www.sherylspanier.com

  19. Jim Rowland says:

    Does Networking really work???

    What is so often called networking in the lexicon on today\’s job search marketing is really \”needworking\”. OK I stole that line, but it is so true that I just had to repeat it. I am in transition now for several months and I am more convinced than ever that networking is the most important thing that I can do – not necessarily to find a job, but to be the best that I can be.

    I have reached out to others in job search to share leads, to offer my own advice on what does work and what I have the most expertise on right now – what does NOT work. Some folks, in fact, most folks are very receptive to this and are very helpful to me if they can be, and they can\’t always be helpful. I don\’t really care, I help them anyway.

    I am meeting some very interesting people, learning a great deal about what challenges others are facing in their business and hopefully, I am helping some others with finding their next assignment. Mine will come, and when it does I will have many friends in disparate places to ask questions, share experiences, etc.

    Sheryl is so right in her final comment – it reflects the Dale Carnegie quote – \”you will make more friends in two months being interested in them, than in two years of trying to make them interested in you.\”

    Networking works when you reach out and give, what you get back is many multiples of what you give.

    Jim Rowland

  20. Steve Wilson says:

    Jim Rowland’s comment is correct. Most people approach networking as “needworking” (I like your word, Jim). Effective networking, however, is a lifestyle rather than an event. It is based on giving, not getting. I posted short article on my blog recently entitled “Effective betworkers are givers.” Check it out.

    Networking is the single most effective way of hetting a job. At a seminar recently, the presenter asked people in the room how they got their most recent job — more than 80% were due to networking. This seems to be consistent with other stats I’ve read.

  21. Great response Jim! I only say the following because I see sooo many people blow it: Keep adding value after you land!
    Here is more networking tidbits: http://www.yourbrandplan.com/forum/networking/

  22. Rand Bateman says:

    I liked the Liz Ryan article David linked to. I always want to be the connector. My practice is strictly intellectual property (patents, trademarks, copyrights), but I make it a point to know attorneys in all fields. Many of my clients will call me with legal issues which are well outside of my expertise, I always take time to connect them with an attorney I know that will do a good job on the issue. While this takes time that I do not bill my client’s for, it has long term benefits more valuable than the money. My client’s know that they can come to me for any legal issue and that I will get them the best person to handle the job, even if that person is not me. Other attorneys appreciate the referrals and are happy to reciprocate. Both my client and their new attorney view me as a more important part of their network. Some of my clients now ask me for nonlegal contacts because I have become a “connector” as Ms. Ryan calls it.

    The same applies to anyone who is networking. If you look at networking as how will this benefit me, it will be apparent that you are needworking. (I can name you a number of forums that many avoid because it is need working). However, if you view it as how can I help those in my network, those who you have helped will return the favor some day.

    By the way, if you are an engineer looking for work, consider Utah. Our unemployment rate is currently at 2.3 percent and there are over 1000 unfilled engineering jobs in Utah.

  23. Glenn Mandelkern says:

    Networking has been of great interest particularly because it has *not* worked for everybody as advertised.

    Networking can work if you give it time. And that’s something which in the Age of Instant Everything few are willing to do. That’s why Networking appears to fail them, because it doesn’t produce “results” at high speed.

    The way Networking gets described in many job hunting literature (books, Web sites) is 2 people click eyes immediately across a professional association meeting floor, chemistry and interviews happen, the job offer comes, and they live happily ever after. When one networks with this common expectation, however, it rarely materializes. Instead, you may get to know one person who then knows another who then knows someone else to get to the hiring manager. And several reschedulings may need to happen because “Life Happens!” (And why are there hardly ever hiring managers at those professional association meetings those who are serious about careers are told to attend?)

    Furthermore, there’s rarely any forewarning of what may go wrong when you try to network. Again, the oft painted picture in job hunting folklore is everybody you e-mail and call to will drop everything they’re doing just to meet you. However, don’t we in our 60-70+hour workweek climate hear so many complain they can’t even schedule time for their own spouses and children?

    Let us also realize that some take pride in saying how busy they are. They don’t make time just for anybody, they let you know. That arrogant persona doesn’t sound like the industry insider who wants to get to know another colleague. (And nowadays, if you do get face-to-face, you may have to deal with the Crackberry “No time left for you.”)

    One of the most non-productive letdowns in networking is the “doing-a-friend-a-favor” sequence. Frank, a mutual acquaintance tells you “Talk to my buddy John. He’s in the industry you’re investigating.” John meets with you primarily to stay in good terms with Frank. If you’re unemployed, John may see you because he feels sorry for you. However, John has no leads, only prayers for you and gratitude that he’s not in your shoes.

    Networking has also gotten a bad reputation by some who have misused informational interviews. Therefore anything that looks or sounds like a fishing expedition for job leads gets turned down.

    Lastly, there are some in hiring who do not want to be seen as playing favorites. One of my greatest bosses preferred people who weren’t a friend of a friend. This way, hiring focused exclusively on job competence. He didn’t want anybody on our team to feel they had an insider’s edge because they knew somebody. To people like me who love cold calling and persuading solely on what an individual brings, this is orgasmic.

    Does it seem like I’m anti-networking? Not at all. I have benefitted from it immensely, as I have gotten jobs and other opportunities because someone I met 4 days ago or 4 years ago referred me through up to 6 degrees of indirectness. And those who know me (if you’d like to call that Networking) know one thing they can count on is I’ll never supply them one and only one viewpoint of something.

    To that I attribute Richard Nelson Bolles’ book _The Three Boxes of Life_, where he speaks of triangulation. For just about any subject, you will find those who support it, those who don’t, and some in between. (The odd thing about triangulating is you’ll be “networking” while you do it.) You will find some people for who are sold on networking-for-jobs, others who aren’t, with the real answer probably somewhere in the middle.

    Personally, I love those “diamond in the rough” stories. Like the record executive on vacation who spots an undiscovered singer in a Population 50 town saloon, I love meeting talented candidates no one knows about yet. I also like when in the otherwise lonely world of job hunting they find me on their own.

    And Networking gets even more suspect when all your contacts are themselves out of jobs. Then your only 3 reliables are Me, Myself and I.

  24. Joris Claeys says:

    Jason,

    First my appreciation of your interaction and thoughts in various forums and your blogging. You claim to be looking up at authorities in so many fields, but you have deserved a seat amongst the VIPs.

    Yes networking, though it takes enormous time and energy, results in benefits. Besides the learning experience of different people, cultures, opinions, perceptions, etceteras, there is also the professional and in some cases the monetary benefit. To many it is hidden, to some it is a challenge and to few it is or has become or will become a reality.

    One of my stories of success: while I am working as an interimCEO and founding partner of a web2 initiative – The MARKETING VILLAGE, I have been able to realize professional connections which have lead to why we were initiating the MARKETING VILLAGE in the first place: a business service community for collaborating amongst experts, bidding and project deployment, geared around a specific niche in the market. The initiative has changed tremendous, but while that is ongoing, I experienced the value of connecting to people, I would otherwise have never met. A month ago I ran into a consultancy offer for my Interim Management Practice ACCELERATE, from an international development institution, requesting my interest to review their internal organisation relative to change management and change facilitation. I reviewed the scope, identifying that it would be impossible for one person to capture and make their expectations possible. So I turned around to my network – not openly – but identifying which skills and personalities + background would fit to make a combined offer. Within 3 days we formed a consortium, we agreed upon some basic stuff such as confidentiality and how to collaborate and within a week, though we are 3 experts in 3 continents/regions from 3 different be it European roots, we had our bid out, very professional, glueing our expertise and know-how to hit a non-refuseable bid. Well we have to be patient no, but we have good hopes. Even if it doesn’t happen, we have proven that professional and/or social business networking works and IS A MUST in this flat world. One doesn’t need to be another BIG4 to bring value. In this flat world, we can act big though small and big ones can act small to compete with the innovative ones. The world is changing, and taking away some sad interruptions, I see great things happening.

    Regards,
    Joris Claeys
    LinkedIn = http://www.linkedin.com/in/acceleratejorisclaeys

    Co-moderator ASEMke Forum
    TEN – Americas / SE-Asia Emerging Markets

    CEO (interim) & Managing Partner
    The MARKETING VILLAGE™ your world, our village! ©
    Business Service Community for the emerging markets
    Facilitating Knowledge Convergence ©
    Collaborative Knowledge Platform – Resource Expertise Pool – Domestic Insource Pooling

    Managing Director
    ACCELERATE Global Supply Chain Solutions
    Collaborative Supply Chain & Marketing Mix Management
    for the Extended Enterprise ©
    Knowledge Management – Value Networking – Relations Management
    Member of The MARKETING VILLAGEâ„¢
    Business Solutions – Interim Management – Consultancy

  25. How To Get Comments on Blog Posts…

    I’ve got some longevity to this blogging fad, going on my sixth year now, and my comments have usually been pretty good. I have about half as many comments as posts on this blog, but this isn’t really a commenting…

  26. Dan Schawbel says:

    60% of executives are hired through networking. Networking has the power for an applicant to get a job that was not posted to the public. It also can alleviate the interview process and job screening. It is a critical tool in getting hired by a large corporation of Fortune 500 company. It took me 8 months to get a job at EMC, where it took my friend 1 day through his Uncle who is the Executive VP of HR.

    Think about it…meeting people is your gate to success

    -Dan Schawbel

  27. Steve Harvey says:

    My networking is indeed “working” when people come to me for information and advice. I aspire to earn “people are glad they met me” contacts and develop “people are glad they know me” relationships.

    For those who have been networking for a long time with no “results” (job offers), it is time to rethink what is being done and make changes accordingly.

    One of my career mentors (Doug Whatley at http://www.sp3group.com) recently observed many companies are looking for people with deep knowledge/expertise in very specific areas (rather than “just” a variety of general leadership, management, and business skills). For me, that means I need to articulate my resident knowledge and industry domain expertise in a manner that compels prospective employers to contact me.

    Another advisor (Beverly Harvey at http://www.harveycareers.com, no relationship to me even though we have the same last name!) recently emphasized the importance of an integrated marketing campaign to minimize the transition time and maximize the likelihood of finding a great job that is a perfect fit and at the right company. I am now starting to use JibberJobber as a key component to organizing and tracking my progress.

    For those of us currently in transition, networking is essential. The bigger challenge is to upgrade our perspective on networking from a fixed-duration focused-objective activity to long-term relationship-building that makes a positive difference for people, organizations, society, the world (in addition to paying the bills and feeding the family!).

  28. Devin Thorpe says:

    Personally, I believe that you must think of networking as a career-long activity. You can’t stop when you have a job and start when you need one or you’ll miss too many good opportunities. We all need to stay connected all the time. This also allows us to be of help to people in our networks when they need help–networking is a two way street.

    ddt

  29. [...] I am conducing research with this post. I want to send a link out inviting several “players” to give me their answers. What are your thoughts? Have you truly had success networking? Here is a link to a post on JibberJobber about a similar subject. The comments of this post are pretty positive about networking. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, I think networking has huge advantages over not networking. But there are some fundamental problems in what is happening and I want to know what it is. [...]

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