Networking With Care, or Avoiding Another Job That Doesn’t Really Fit

© iQoncept -
© iQoncept -

I always loved that scene in the film Pretty Woman where the newly groomed Julia Roberts returns, laden with expensive carrier bags, to the boutique that had refused to serve her when she was dressed in scruffy denim and looking like, well, a hooker. Julia shrugs her Vuittons and Chanels at the salesclerk and grins. “Big mistake. HUGE mistake.”

I remember that scene whenever I hear someone advising job seekers to network their way to their next job.

The networking dance

First, let’s be clear about what networking means. Networking means that you talk to your friends and colleagues, and then you talk to friends and colleagues of your friends and colleagues, and then you talk to their friends and colleagues and so on until you finally hit an employer who actually would be interested in hiring you.

It’s hard to deny – and I don’t – that networking can be the path to finding jobs. In fact, the generally-accepted insight is that 2/3 to 3/4 of professionals and executives, and about a third of blue collar, entry, and clerical level workers find jobs via networking.

The way the chaotic, mostly un-systematic recruitment world works today, jobseekers would be foolish not to network to find a job. So it would seem.

But, what matters is not finding a job. It’s finding the right job.

The networking math

Focusing on networking narrows your options. Let’s do the math:

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  • In the U.S. alone, 4 to 5 million new jobs are filled every month. There are, for example, more than half a million marketing jobs listed on Internet job boards at present, and 100,000 website developer jobs open – in both cases, I hasten to add, NOT including non-announced jobs that will most probably be filled by internal transfers and which represent the large majority of open jobs.
  • There are 124 million searches for “jobs” on Google every monthThere are over 1 million searches for “marketing jobs” every month, over 2 million for “sales jobs”, nearly 700,000 searches for “accounting jobs”… you get the idea.
  • There are well over 1 million private sector organizations in the U.S. that employ 10 or more workers.
  • The average person has over 100, let’s say 120 Facebook friends, maybe 60 contacts on LinkedIn (LinkedIn won’t reveal the real number) plus around 100 friends and 400 acquaintances. Assuming you are like that and that your networking takes you two degrees of separation from 20 percent of those 400 people, and that the number of people aware of each job opening is…
  • I’m sorry, that’s too much math for a blog. But the answer is you’re way, way off getting to hear about any significant fraction of the vacancies through networking. Not even close.

Beyond – way beyond – networking

So why does networking work?

  • You get seduced. They want you! We all want to be loved.
  • They think you are safe. They are pretty sure you are not a weirdo; nobody recommends the seriously strange, at least I don’t think so.
  • It doesn’t really work. It doesn’t work the way you want. You may get a job, but in the majority of cases not the right job for your special talents.

Use networking? Big mistake, HUGE mistake.

The much better method is to get matched with the right job, the job where your special talents and traits match that job’s performance predictors. This is scientific, not chaotic and it reaches all jobs, not the tiny fraction inside the purview of the friends of the friends of your friends…

If you use networking, at least use it with care. Use it with the likelihood that it will land you in yet another job that doesn’t fit.


6 Comments on “Networking With Care, or Avoiding Another Job That Doesn’t Really Fit

  1. I love this article. I remember that great scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts returns to the shop where she was previously snubbed. Don’t make a “Big mistake. HUGE mistake.” when searching for your next job. Choose proven science to match up with the Right Job, not the right-now job.

  2. Something you don’t mention is that networking is potentially discriminatory. Restricting hiring to people we know is unlikely to result in a diverse workforce. Not only does this put us at risk of legal challenge, it can damage business outcomes by encouraging group think and the kind of coziness that distracts folks from driving results.

    But right now networking saves recruiters lots of time and money by bringing candidates to our door. I’d like to hear more about the job matching alternative.

  3. Networking also perpetuates the class differences in our society. If your network only include those people who you know personally or through your friends (probably through work or school or neighborhood) than the only connections you are going to make are within a class system. So, the student that goes to Central Connecticut State University is unlikely to have the same connections as the student that went to Wesleyan. The student from Central will be stuck in certain kinds of jobs in hir field (even if hir education and skills are top notch) and the student from Wesleyan will be networked into better jobs (even if hir parents paid their way school and the student never applied hirself).

    If our society truly values success through hard work, then we need a way to get rid of the barriers that prevents excellent people from finding the right job, and allows lazy people to sit in good jobs that then waste taxpayers money.

  4. I can hear some of the socially acceptable responses which illustrate resistance to changing behaviors and migrating from networking to scientific matching. “But networking at least feels like I’m doing something.” “Besides, no one knows me better than my friends and family.” “And isn’t that matching up stuff just psychobabble?”
    There’s no denying the pain of transition. In those moments, the overriding objective is to just get another job. Recently, I suggested to an out of work friend that this moment is a creative juncture for her. It’s the opportunity she’s been seeking for a long time – to find something more meaningful that utilizes her full self. She was quite moved and admitted that not a single networking conversation invited that depth of exploration or understanding. I hope she tries the more potentially rewarding path.

  5. Interesting data. Would like to understand more about the solution to the networking issues that are so clearly described , i.e. “matching”. what does that mean, how does it work, what are the specfic benefits I would see as a HM. Alsoo, in addition to whatever is costs outright, – how much of my time would be involved, etc. As Oliver said in Oliver Twist, “More please, Sir.”

  6. The rise of networking is perfectly understandable; recruiters are bombarded with companies offering services and products to aid recruiting, though often with little real science behind them. If they do choose to go down some of these routes the potential to be bombarded with 100s of applicants, most of who will be completely unsuitable, is another reason why looking to those you know to fill a job is appealing.

    Networking also comes with a big ‘comfort factor’ for many. After all, we are all good judges of friends and colleagues, so if we know of someone who may be interested in the job we’re already on safe grounds, aren’t we! Actually, there are great advantages to this ‘comfort factor’ as it’s a lot better than knowing absolutely nothing about someone. However, the science to go way beyond this superficial comfort factor is now readily available to all recruiters.

    In fact there is over 100 years of research into the science of recruitment. Though some of this may be in the form of ‘psychobabble’ any decent company offering such services should make their products accessible; they should not hide behind the science but express it in a way that is meaningful to recruiters and focuses on real business needs. Technology allows us to put the science right at the front of the recruitment pipeline, so no more sifting through mountains of applications which will more often than not result in missing some potential star candidates. Candidate profiling and matching these profiles against job requirements is a reality that works. Every organization, no matter what its size, can now benefit from candidate-job matching that will have a real impact on the bottom line.

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