You got it, I’m still going on about why we’re bad at networking. I’ve covered issues of overload, incoherent advice, too many options, focus issues, and not pitching to the right personalities. Actually by now I think I’m even more depressed about the state of networking in our culture, and that’s saying something.
However these past columns actually illustrate a point about networking by how much we’re talking about it. Or I am talking about it, but I’m going to generalize here.
Of course we talk networking. Even when we’re talking about how bad people are at networking we’re talking . . . networking. That’s the point, right?
However nothing happens in a vacuum. The problems that we have with people’s networking can make our focus to narrow, too limited. Talking about the problems in networking, at times, can verge perilously close to missing that networking takes place in a larger context. It misses that networking requires a good support structure to make effective – something I touched on before, but not in enough detail.
Networking needs a support structure, a foundation, support materials.
Do we have a business card handy at all times? Are we easy to reach? Do we have a personal web page? Do we have at least the necessary social media presence? Do we have anything worth showing off to people – and are we showing it off? Do we have portfolios and so on?
Networking is about connecting with people. Networking is about keeping up with people. Networking is about building relationships. All fine and good, and some of us are great at reaching out to people – but the question remains have we built a foundation to make sure networking can work for us?
Networking without this foundation is like planting seeds in barren ground. Something might grow, but there’s nothing to nurture them, to give them something to work with. Just connecting with someone is not enough.
Just as bad, some people overdo this, trying to have every possible “in” for networking wether it’s a good idea or not. In this case they’re trying to pump every kind of fertilizer into the land then wonder why the seeds don’t grow, or miss a “treatment” and let their projects waste away.
This issue is one that is easy to forget because we focus so much on what can only be termed “OMG NETWORKING” over, and over, and over again. There’s so much focus on the act of Networking itself, or on Doing All The Stuff that we miss the importance of building a foundation for success. I do this at times, and I’m the guy writing these columns.
We need to have – and teach – building a good support structure for networking. Without it . . .
The result of this is:
Networking Fizzles: In the case of people who don’t have the foundation to network, their networking fizzles. They’re unremarkable, unmemorable, and hard to reach.
Networking Flames Out: In the case of people trying to do every social media thing and every technique at once, it seems they flame out. You can’t do that all unless you make a very dedicated effort, and even then you’re diluting your energies. You may well burn yourself out.
Networking Isn’t Focused: Either way the all-or-nothing approach means that people are missing, as noted, building a good foundation. This results in more failure – and often more giving up or frustration.
Lessons Are Mis-Learned: It’s easy to miss having the wrong foundation for networking, and thus easy to learn the wrong lessons. When people aren’t calling you back due to poor contact info, you need to know that as opposed to redoubling your effort to go to trade shows and job fairs.
Missing The Big Picture: Having a good foundation for networking is also a good foundation for life in general, making contacts, getting involved. Over-focus or under-working the necessary support structure affects you in many ways.
First, here’s my recommended “foundation” for networking:
- A personal domain and web page that lets people contact you. At the minimum it should be a one pager linked to your other appropriate social media.
- A good, clear business card that you can hand out.
- Ensuring your resume and other appropriate media call out your skills, involvements, and abilities.
- A regular review on your development, activities, skills, and involvements to see if they support your goals – and support people being interested in you.
- A membership in the social media you deem important.
- Being part of the appropriate professional associations.
This covers about 80-90% of the foundation you need in my experience.
As for getting over this problem in general:
- Build a good foundation. Get your support system, your foundation right, so you have an example for others. Several times when I’ve talked to people it’s nice to say “do this.”
- Encourage and discourage. Feel free to speak up on a lack of use – or overused – technology and trends. Help people focus on what’s important.
- Think big and think long-term. We need to cultivate our lives as well as our careers, so any foundation we build for networking should help support our lives period.
- Team Up. Team up with people to help build your support system for networking – not just by connecting, but by pooling resources. Hire your artist friend to do your business card, help that friend set up their personal website.
- Show good examples. I love seeing a smart business card or a good technique – promote those.
We need to make sure that we have the right foundation for networking. Otherwise even our other efforts won’t pay off.
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/.