Push back regarding networking

Troy Hopkins
MBA Career Development Specialist
Rockwell Career Center, C. T. Bauer College of Business
University of Houston

One of my previous posts talked about networking. After that I received a few comments along the lines of  “only career counselors say stuff like this” and “come back to the real world”.  I gotta say that those who are knocking networking have the wrong idea about what I mean by networking.  Maybe we in the career counseling game are partially to blame for this.

Networking has the connotation of schmoozing, glad handing, collecting business cards, and idle chatter over drinks. I will agree that this is a technique that will do little to land you a job.

That is why my team is moving away from the term networking and are settling on something that is more descriptive of what should actually be occurring: Relationship Development.  While this is not a new concept I think that many see networking events and approach them with the mindset of how many people can they meet and how many business cards can they collect.  If this is the way that you are approaching networking then it is not surprising that it is not a benefit to you (or the people whose cards you have collected).

Of all those business cards collected, how many were followed up on?

How many people in your LinkedIn network could you rely on to immediately return your email or phone call if you really needed them to?

I guess the underlying question is are you collecting names or building relationships?

We are now concentrating on the latter. In fact, we did away with our MBA Mixer event altogether because it wasn’t producing the desired results.  Instead we are moving towards building lasting relationships with fewer people through informational interviews.

Steve Dalton talked about this at MBACSC and will be releasing a book soon on the “2 hour job search” so I cannot take credit for the technique of compiling a quick list of who to talk to.

http://www.amazon.com/2-Hour-Job-Search-Technology-Faster/dp/1607741709

I can tell you that about three years ago we launched a campaign with our full time MBAs and an incredible volunteer named Rex Humphries who has been working to clarify goals and use relationships to reach them. The students who self selected (not every student chose to participate) became the stellar performers in the class. We are in our third year of the program and the results of the extra work keep presenting themselves: More case competitions, more wins, more interviews, and more offers.  We don’t get anything from using these techniques, they are just in the best interest of the student.

So is schmoozing and glad handing with strangers at an event (and never speaking to them again) going to land you a job? Probably as often as cold resume drop to a web posting. It is not necessarily who you know, but rather who knows what you know that will land you a job.  Building relationships gets more people on your team when it comes time to search for a job.

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