3 Bad Assumptions About Networking for Your Job Search

Many job seekers have told me how much they hate networking for their job search. They don't like meeting strangers, particularly when they (and the strangers) have "an agenda."

They'd rather spend (waste?) time endlessly clicking on the "Apply" button on job boards than venture out into the scary world of "NETWORKING"!

My favorite networking story:

I witnessed three people connect with new jobs based on one conversation. And the conversation happened at the viewing/wake before the funeral of a former colleague. Not your typical networking venue! Just a few people, waiting in line to pay their respects to a deceased former co-worker, and catching up with what they were doing. Bingo! Three job offers! In less than a week!

3 Wrong Assumptions About Networking

1. Networking is hard work.

No. Networking is not "hard work." If it is hard work for you, change your approach and/or your mindset.

Networking should be seeing people you like, often connecting with people from your past as well as your current life. Catch up on the news -- new friends, new interests, new jobs, new opportunities...

Network with people you have something in common with: a current or former employer, a school, a hobby or some other interest, a town or even a neighborhood, a cause, a religion, etc.

Perhaps "socializing" is a more appropriate term for it than "networking." Meet friends for coffee, lunch, a drink, movies, jogging, running, dancing, singing, joining, working, or just talking.

Socialize with the mindset of catching up with old friends. What's happening: What are they doing?

How are they doing? What's new with them? Anything you can help them with -- and vice versa?

2. Networking means large rooms full of strangers.

This assumption is true only if you choose to attend the kind of events that are in large rooms full of strangers.

If you prefer -- and most of us do -- networking can be done one-on-one or in smaller groups, often with people you already know or with a mix of strangers and people you know.

As someone who is basically shy, I prefer the smaller groups with a mix of "new" and "old" people as both more comfortable and more interesting since I can catch up with friends and colleagues as well as meeting new people, too. The networking that can be accomplished in those situations is amazing!

3. Networking is "using" people.

I wish I had a nickel for every job seeker who said this to me, and it is SO wrong!

If you view networking as "using" people, you are networking the wrong way. Networking shouldn't be focused on WIIFM ("What's in it for me!).

To be genuine and effective, networking needs to be focused on being helpful to others, rather than using them. Make that introduction (if appropriate). Share information. Ask for opinions. And ask for help, too.

Yes, hopefully, people will help you but not because you have tricked them or coerced them to do it. That would be "using" them. Resist "keeping score" but do notice if someone is all "take" and no "give." That IS "using" -- using you!

Done correctly, networking is mutual support, and the people who help you are helping you voluntarily, perhaps in response to something you have helped them accomplish. Perhaps they have offered you their support without you even asking for it. Or, maybe you reached out and asked for help.

But, networking isn't -- and it shouldn't feel like -- "using" others.

Your Most Powerful Network.

Your strongest network is those people you already know. Perhaps you worked with them in the past. Or perhaps you grew up with them or met them at an event at your child's school. Maybe you belong/belonged to an organization together.

People who are over 40 or 50 have a big advantage in the job market. That's why unemployment is higher for new grads than for Boomers. "Mature" people have an easier time job hunting now because of the size of their networks, particularly their former co-workers and bosses -- when they pay attention to them. Yes, you should continue to expand your network, but it shouldn't be unpleasant to do.

By: Susan P Joyce updated on February 3rd, 2015