Why We’re Bad At Newtworking #3: The New Skew Review

Last week as I explored why we’re bad at networking, I covered how the basics are actually poorly handled, taught, and communicated. Somehow among all the books and lectures, we manage to get the actual basics of networking made boring, repetitive, and incoherent. In turn, that turns us off to networking and misinforms us.

However there’s a flip side to Basic Buzzword Breakdown that also makes us bad at networking; The Onslaught of The New.

Look I’m a big Neophile in my own way (that means I like new things, not that I love Neo in The Matrix). I love new stuff. I love interesting stuff. However there’s a lot to be said for the basics, for the old school, for known things, and that “lot to be said is “this stuff works and is reliable.”

Unfortunately, as part of the Hammering On Of Networking (which I don’t think I’m a part) we get the latest new thing dragged out and shoved in our faces and shot into our eyeballs. There’s always some Big! New! Networking! Thing!

You’ll find a job on Facebook!

No, wait, Twitter!

You should try these virtual job fairs!

No, now you want to try some fancy new stunt resume!

Now, the big thing is . . . oh, hell, I don’t know. Someday we’ll be able to give people a resume in pill form and you can make your Skills list taste like Chocolate.

Even reliable standards change – and then people harp on them like crazy. Whenever LinkedIn, which I adore, adds some new feature, even if they barely mention it, the rest of us get to hear about how It Changes Everything. It’s got to be weird to work at LinkedIn, knowing that even a minor thing, even a bug fix, could make career news.

Of course the reason for all this New Thingness in networking exists for a few reasons:

  • New things get attention. We naturally pay attention to them. So people tend to run to them.
  • New things get web hits and fuel content marketing, so people play them up.
  • Everyone is looking for a silver bullet. The New Things appeal to that instinct.
  • As people are still bad at networking, people keep looking for a big new thing to bring up.
  • Disillusionment with the basics means that the new thing keeps getting brought up as its new and interesting for the five minutes its out there before someone promotes it into the ground.
  • We’ve integrated Neophilia (new, not Keanau) into our technical culture.  New is Good and Big and we should talk about it.

I’ve watched I don’t know how many networking trends come and go while I and others move along, slow but sure. Some of them are amusing, and instructive in general, but still . . .

This New Thing Enthusiasm in Networking leads to several problems.

Further Disillusionment: Once you get tired of the New Thing in Networking, you may well get tired of Networking period – and we’re back to the previously mentioned problems. When the basics are incoherent and boring, and the latest new thing is a flash in a pan, it turns you off to networking period.  That’s bad, as you may guess.

Focus On The New Not The Reliable: Focusing on the fads misses the foundations of good networking, things like reaching out, using LinkedIn, having a personal page, etc. It’s a distraction. If we end up pursuing the new, we’re going to be bad at networking because not all of this is tried and true.

Missing The Good Stuff: If we get turned off by the fact there’s some Hot New Networking Thing, then we’re also going to miss the good stuff out there and not use it. For instance I’ve seen some weird stunt resumes, but in turn I really did learn from these crazy things that you can rethink a resume and how you present yourself (it’s why I use my books in my interviews). You can miss the value of networking sites, or events, or techniques because you’re sick of the various Big New Things everyone won’t shut up about.

Just Plain Distraction: It’s hard to focus period when some new Networking idea is out there. I actually find I have to tune things out as a careerist and be very selective – and I manage it sometimes.  Just not always.

We can’t get distracted by all the New Networking Things, we can’t ignore them. So what do we do to be better networkers as opposed to lost, withdrawn, or overwhelmed?

  • Focus on the stuff that works first. Have a home base (LinkedIn and a personal web page or address). Have the right tools (good cards, good resume). Get out and meet people and have fun.  Read those books that are worth reading.
  • Use the Latest New Thing to support the basics first. If some new web service helps you meet new people, good – work it into networking. If you can’t figure out why some hot new thing is so hot, then maybe it’s not worth using right now.
  • Try before you fly. Give the hot new stuff a trial period to see what it does for you, and be ready to drop it if it doesn’t work.  You can always go back later.
  • Take what works. This is actually kind of fun – look at some new service or fad and give it a try, then figure what pieces you can use. My aforementioned experience with stunt resumes was fun and taught me a lot, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to do some of the crazy stuff I saw.
  • Share notes. Team up with fellow pros to review the networking techniques and new tools. Besides, while you do that . . . you’re networking.

Good luck navigating the seemingly endless sea of new networking tools – and keep perspective so it doesn’t turn you off to networking.

– Steven Savage

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