Why We’re Bad At Networking #2: The Basics and Incoherence

Last week thanks to a Twitter conversation, I decided to wade into a subject near and dear to my heart; why a lot of us aren’t that great at Networking.

This is not to saw I’m awesome, of course. I think I’m pretty good at it, though my goodness level is a bit erratic as it were; I think I could improve in several areas. But I do feel I do it well enough to be able to analyze it and give advice – if only because everyone else is bloody well asking me questions about it.

Last week I noted we got tired of being told to network and told how to network, drowned in hearing about it constantly, lost in details or generalities, lost in BS. We were overwhelmed with being told about it, and we tune it out – rather understandably.

Networking got buzzworded badly.

One issue I touched on was that we keep hearing the basics over and over again. I wanted to focus on that more this week as it’s a critical part of networking failures. In fact the idea we focus too much on the basics of a lot of the job search is a big part of why I wrote Quest for Employment because we miss so many real details on the job search.

The basics of networking are splattered across every bookshelf in the employment section. They’re churned over in blog post after blog post (which I suppose makes me a bit of a hypocrite). We have to hear them constantly as our friends and family give us well-meaning advice we’ve heard before.

The problems with the basics being everywhere and omnipresent, a kind of ghost haunting the corridors of the job search, are many.

Repetition Leads To Rejection: You get numb from the same taste, the same sounds, the same sensations. We tune out repetitious things too easy – and the constant networking drumbeat leaves us to drown it out as well. I personally, and well-meaningly, have talked to people about the basics and you can feel their brains shut down if you’re not very careful.

Too Basic: The basics are just that, basics. However few of us are leading entirely generic lives. The basics may not mean much unless we can relate to them – and the basics are often so iconic (use LinkedIn! Talk to people!) that we just don’t connect with them. The basics have to be made relevant to us – which is damned hard when you’re tuning out people due to repetition.

No Big Picture: A lot of times, similar to the above problem, we just can’t get networking into the big picture of our lives (which I find to be the critical difference in success). No one is showing us how it all comes together – or even giving us a hint in the right direction. We’re left trying to figure out how to apply this basic mass of advice to an actual life to make it all work.

Not Moving With The Times: Sure some networking advice is basic for a reason, but it’s also not exactly moving with the times. In an age of social media technology, a rapidly-changing economy, and even changing online identity it’s not always keeping up. Just an example – now when I mail a resume in with samples (which I at times do in parallel with online) people treat that as a shockingly weird thing to do (missing of course that’s the point . . .)

No Where To Go: The basics of networking often leave us with no other way to go. We get a pile of basics from whoever just tossed us some advice and that’s it. We need followups and inspiration and ideas (which, you’ll notice, I focus on)

So how do we address the fact that the basics at best bore us and at worse aren’t made relevant?

  • A sense of fun and humor. No really – you have to have fun with this. This is a subject I’ll address more later.
  • Goals. The basics make a lot more sense when we set goals and use them as initial building blocks – this is anathema to a lot of advice-giving which is “just do it.” You have to figure out your goals and how networking works in – or how others can do so.
  • Awareness. When you realize what your goal is then you can also explore (and disregard) networking techniques, advice, and tools as needed. You need to stay aware of what you’re doing and what you want.
  • Talk to people who talk to you. There are a few great works on networking, which I’ve recommended. But some of the best advice, beyond these books, is talking to people that really get it – successful friends, family, co-workers, etc. They can connect you up with heartfelt advice.
  • Smart tuning out. Don’t let the onslaught of the basics get to you. Tune out the stuff you don’t need and focus on what you need and what works. If people bug you about that, note that you’re trying to get beyond the basics, which you’re pretty sick of hearing of.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers athttp://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.