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Aug 25 2016
You didn’t reach the senior management/executive ranks by being lazy. More than likely, you worked quite hard to get where you are today. That said, it might seem strange that I refer to in-person networking and lazy job searching as opposites; but there is a reason.
No, this is not one more entry in the seemingly unending stream of articles that browbeat you for not networking or not doing it as often or as well as you should. However, I do want to share a few thoughts you might not have previously considered about in-person networking and its role in your next job search.
Before I dive in, here’s an important point to keep in mind: Networking is not exclusively focused on job searching. It is—or should be—a key component of your overall, ongoing career management. However, this article is specifically focused on networking’s relationship to job searching.
Networking on Purpose
If you don’t remember anything else about in-person networking, remember this: It rarely happens by chance. To be most successful, it needs to be done purposefully rather than haphazardly. Otherwise, to use a visual analogy, you might as well toss a deck of cards in the air and try to guess which one will hit the floor first.
Passive In-Person Networking
While it might strike you as odd to consider in-person networking as passive, the fact remains that it can be. For example, you might find formal networking events scheduled in your area and sign up to attend one or more of them. However, this course of action depends on someone else to plan, schedule, and publicize the event. It means you have little or no control, except in deciding whether or not to attend. In other words, it’s at least partially a passive approach.
The second issue here is that if you do sign up for an event, you still need to plan your participation and prepare for it. If you don’t perform your due diligence ahead of time, how can you expect satisfactory results from the event? As part of preparing to attend an event, you should consider questions such as the following:
- Why am I going? What do I want to get from attending?
- How much do I know about the organization that’s hosting the event? What is their track record for putting on successful events?
- Do I have a plan for transforming “business-card-collecting” into meaningful networking that has the potential for longer-term benefit?
Active Networking, Not Passive
As you might suspect, active in-person networking doesn’t involve sitting back and waiting for someone else to pull the strings. Think about it this way: If you had a challenge in your organization because something critical wasn’t happening, wouldn’t you take assertive action to identify the roadblock and remove it?
Of course, you can’t plan everything about your job search down to the nth degree. Life doesn’t work that way. However, you can create a networking plan that establishes key milestones and actions required to achieve them, along with some built-in flexibility that allows for changes when circumstances make them necessary.
Essential Elements of Active In-Person Networking
First, an active networking plan recognizes that you control much of the action. You want to avoid having a large portion of the plan dependent on actions by others. Second, as noted earlier, you need a well-thought-out plan, not something haphazard or random.
Here are just a few elements you might want to consider for your plan:
- Timing: How much time can I devote to in-person networking each week? Note that this doesn’t assume you have time lying around going to waste; you might have to carve it out of a busy schedule.
- Location: What types of places and geographical locations are the most reasonable for my situation? For example, do time restrictions make certain locations impractical in some cases?
- Type of event: Should I combine some externally scheduled events (i.e., passive) with others that I schedule or coordinate with someone? What kinds of events might I be able to develop networking opportunities from, even though their stated purpose isn’t networking?
- Confidentiality issues: If I’m conducting a confidential job search, can a particular networking opportunity be engaged in without telegraphing the job search to my current employer? In other words, can it be described believably as a potentially beneficial activity for the company?
In-Person Networking Not the Only Way
Of course, you can do remote/electronic networking as part of your job search, too. In-person isn’t the only way to go. However, it should make up a good-sized chunk of your effort. You need to see and talk with people a fair amount of the time to make a lasting impression and develop strong connections.