Past Issues

April 29, 2013

The Goal To Job Search Networking

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The Goal To Job Search Networking

Peter Weddle, Author of the new guide to the secrets of job search and career success, Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System

Why did the new CEO of Yahoo! shock the business world by bringing the company's workers back to their physical offices during the workday? And, why is Google designing a new office complex in which no employee will be more than a two and a half minute walk from any other employee? These are two of the world's leading Internet companies, yet they are riveted on casual, real world interactions. What does that mean for today's Web-centric job seekers?

Thanks to all of the media attention lavished on such sites as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, networking has been redefined as a virtual experience played as a contact sport. All you have to do is sit at your computer and bulk up your personal brand by adding as many connections, followers and friends as you can.

According to this new conventional wisdom, real world interactions are the rotary phones of networking. Such time-consuming, verbal testing, manners demanding face-to-face meetings are quaint relics of a simpler by-gone era.

There's just one problem. According to research, both recent and recently acknowledged, this new conventional wisdom is wrong.

  • As far back as the mid 1970s, MIT researchers found that those who are out of sight are, in fact, out of mind. Humans are four times more likely to engage with someone sitting six feet away as they are with someone even sixty feet away, let along across the country.
  • And, in 2004, another study found that managers who bridge physical gaps between themselves and others were more likely to generate good ideas and advance professionally. As the lead author put it, "This is not creativity born of genius. It is creativity as an import-export business." In other words, networking is actually a line of sight engagement that involves balanced trading.
Networking as an Export-Import Business

Job search networking is not a contact sport; it's a team sport. The goal is to build relationships with people so you can help them (that's you exporting a benefit to them) and they will be inclined to help you (that's you importing a benefit from them). Relationships, however are built with touch points the interests, experiences or affinities that are shared by two people. The key to success, therefore, is to identify as many touch points as possible with a person and to do so as quickly as possible.

On the Web, and especially at online networking sites, those relationships are typically defined by first level of knowledge. They are based on what you read in a person's profile or in their tweets or on their Facebook page. In a very real sense, your relationship with each other is only cyber-skin deep.

What you can't achieve are relationships which occur at the second and third and fourth levels of knowledge. Those touch points occur by serendipity - the chance discovery during a conversation that you both came from the same small town, or that your mothers were graduated from the same college or that you both love the game of lacrosse. They augment what you can read with what you can discover.

These chance discoveries are the lubricant of successful networking. They make business interactions personal and, in the process, dramatically upgrade the perceived value of your exports and the likelihood you will receive imports. And, as both Yahoo! and Google clearly acknowledge, the only way they can be accomplished is face-to-face, in real life interactions that happen by serendipity.

So, as you plan this week's activities in your job search campaign (and those in the weeks after that), make sure you give yourself plenty of opportunities for job search serendipity. Attend the local chapter meetings of your professional society and trade association. Go to the luncheons sponsored by the alumni associations of your undergraduate and graduate academic institutions. And, don't miss the reunion of your couples bowling team or book club. Yes, you will have to take off your fuzzy slippers, but you will take on the power and promise of chance discoveries.

Thanks for reading,

Described by The Washington Post as "a man filled with ingenious ideas," Peter Weddle has been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and He's also written and edited over two dozen books. Check out his blockbuster guide to the secrets of job search and career success called Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System.

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