Why We’re Bad At Networking #5: Many Personalities, One Method

Why are we bad at Networking? This issue has been obsessing me for the last few weeks, which I hope has been as informative for you as it’s been therapeutic for me. It’s nice to organize my thoughts and get them out. As you may guess, I’m not done yet.

Now there’s a lot of effective networking advice out there. Sure it’s often basic, sure we get the same stuff thrown at us again and again, sure the tools are overwhelming. But we do get a lot of good network advice and options out there.

It’s just that in a lot of cases . . . it’s pitched at people who already network in specific ways, do specific things, and have specific personalities.

Networking is pitched at integrated (even if only in a subculture), usually-networked, energetic, and at least partially extraverted people. It is pitched to people who are, in short, already inclined to networking anyway and just looking for advice. It’s not preaching to the choir all the time, but is preaching to the guy who read your pamphlet and decided to drop in.

This does not cover a lot of the population. In fact, based on my experience, I think a lot of the networking advice out there at best is pitched to about half the population (of the US) if that. Several times I’ve tried to give people networking advice and gotten blank stares or failed attempts, and now I’m realizing that I wasn’t speaking to them, I was speaking to some archetypical networker they weren’t.

I’ve seen networking advice for introverts, or specific subpopulations, but I don’t think it’s nearly enough or nearly promoted enough. As I watch more people struggle with their careers, I think this may be one of the great failures of teaching networking – getting it out to more people.

And all those past problems I discussed, the overloading, the multiple options, incoherence, etc.? They make this specific pitch-to-the-wrong-people a lot worse.

When we don’t reach out to more people with networking advice – and networking advice for them, the repercussions are severe.

People Don’t Network: OK, this is obvious, but think how important networking is for life and career – and in an age of social media, an age where we need to overcome consumer boundaries, important for sanity and social integration. We’re not reaching people who need this.

People Feel Rejected: I recall someone reading a book on Networking for Introverts. That left me with a cold feeling I took awhile to process; realizing that I and others, the happy-slappy out there introverts weren’t talking to others. I imagined how rejected she must have felt by people trying to give her advice. I also imagined how many people like you or I had failed her.

People Get Bitter: Think you’re bitter about Networking because everyone wants to get your Pinprofile on FaceSpace to use TwitIn? Now imagine all your bitterness about networking overload or too many tools and make it personal with feeling a huge population of people aren’t talking to you – but are acting like you should listen. Imagine how that turns people off.

Gurus and Advisors Don’t Learn: Do you think all the people rejecting or not accessing networking advice talk to the people who screw up? Probably not. I know I haven’t always listened to people, and I think I’m a pretty fantastic guy. Sometimes.

I need to listen more. Also, do do the rest of you.

The Economy And Culture Gets Hurt: Think how many amazing, productive, interesting, people just are existing in networking limbo. Think of the pain and suffering. Think what it does to we as people and as a culture to have an increasingly connected world, with islands of people not invited to the party.

This is an issue that’s not addressed nearly enough in networking advice and tools. It’s also one that I think has a lot of impact. Just writing this made me confront some of my own errors.

So what do we do to get over this problem?

  • Listen. If you’re giving someone networking advice listen to their issues, concerns, and goals. Help them reach their goals, not follow some template.
  • Dump The Template. Going on my first piece of advice, dump the standard templates for what to do in networking when you reach out. Start focusing on goals, tools, and diagnostics so you can figure what works.
  • Build New Templates. Now once you start over in Networking advice, you’ll identify new populations that were ignored and how to reach them. Propagate this information and share your findings! Identifying a population helps us communicate with them.
  • Make People Aware. Talk to people, tell gurus and writers about personality issues you’ve seen. Blog about it like here.

You want to know why a lot of people are bad at Networking? No one is talking to them. Sometimes that includes me, to be frank.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://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/.