Desperate times do not call for desperate networking

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Don't network desperately
Unemployment rate now tops 7% nationally and in the golden state will top 9% when the latest figures come out. Some metropolitan areas have hit 25% unemployment. Job losses are now the highest since WWII. No wonder fear and desperation are increasingly evident in the working and networking world. When people get scared several things happen.They can get really focused on on what is truly important to them, or often they just start flailing about with little direction and thought. Employing a quantity theory to their actions–more is better. Throw as much as you can against the wall and something might stick. The consequences can be wasteful and reputationally damaging. See my post on speed networking

While these are desperate times, calling for desperate measures, we should not appear to be desperate or stupid. Often, we mirror our circumstances. When things are good we reflect that in our mood, our tone and even in our body language. When things aren't so good we do the opposite. And maybe even lead our conversations with how bad things are etc etc. Michale Losier says, "You attract to your life what you give time, attention and focus –positive or negative." Clearly this goes for networking too. Being calm in a storm takes energy and concentration. Panicking and over reacting is instinctual, but toxic. Treating your network like an ATM, where you input your transactional impersonal messages and expect value to just pour out is nonsensical. So desperate times require more strategy, more thought, and more thoughtfulness. Old American Indian proverb: "When you are lost in the forest, STAND STILL."

Here is an example of the "dumbest" networking request for assistance or advice I now get on a daily basis. 

"John, can you help my brother? I have attached his resume. He either wants to work in CA or NY. He is interested in for-profit or non-profit. Please let him know if you hear of anything. Thanks for your help." 
ANALYSISThis e-mail was exasperating on many levels. It violates the basic principles of networking at every turn. Ironically, the sender thinks he is doing a good deed, when in fact the damage to the network can be serious serious. 1. A generic networking request for jobs is worst than no request at all, because you can lose that networking contact and opportunity. 2. An unfocused networking request, says to me you don't know what you want, where you want to live–any job will do. –the greatest fallacy is they think they are being open to possibilities in different sectors or geography.The reality is this "openness" creates a black hole that sucks all of the networking potential out of the connection. And this is a deadly combo. The only thing that would have made this worse is If the brother cold contacted me directly. If I do not know this person well, I delete the message. If I know them, meaning they are in my network, I explain the disservice they are doing to, in this case, his brother.(FYI, I have finally connected with the brother and we are getting things focused)

So what would be acceptable alternatives: E-mail or voice-mail (a call doesn't hurt from time to time, if it is important or you have not connected in awhile)
  1. GOOD- "John, you have not met my brother, but he is thinking about locating to LA. His resume is attached. Can you carve out a few minutes to give him some advice?"
  2. BETTER-"John, my brother is trying to locate to LA from NY and wants to get a handle on the non-profit landscape. He is thinking about working in education. Can you talk to him and share your thoughts?"
  3. BEST-"John, my brother has an extraordinary background in for-profit and non-profit work. Check out his resume. He is very interested in working in charter schools in LA. Can you talk to him and give him your thoughts?" 

If his brother knew the exact employer or had his sights set on a specific opportunity, then the full power of the network can be engaged. Do you know a specific person or employer? is the basis for the most effective networking. Otherwise we are conducting informational interviews and helping each other. That's perfectly fine, just call it that. The key to this example is the way was paved by my friend's referral of his brother. See my post on opportunistic networking


Consider for a brief moment that the competition for any attention has been increased to a crazy level. Quality of the candidates, for vendors, for any business has reached a fevered pitch. Plus the readers of such e-mail or letters have less time and patience for poorly thought out appeals of any sort. What do you think the number one concern, besides quality and price, of the employer hiring or the organization engaging new suppliers/partners?  Trust. Confidence that they are making the right decision. What makes the difference in a crowded and chaotic marketplace?–recommendations from trusted sources. You want to get the time and attention of the decision maker:

  • Personalize the approach
  • Be referred by a close colleague/friend of the decision maker    
  • Demonstrate your qualifications 

It is a buyer's market! If you do not have the goods, the skills, the track record, then focus on how you can compete. But if you have the resume that matches the opening or the products/services that meet the need, then you have to be ushered in by a warm connection that lowers the anxiety and increases the comfort of the targeted decision maker. Comprende? BTW, this is always the case, but in times like this it is a absolute must. 

Thanks for reading.  John 

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