by: John Caddell
Author Barbara Ehrenreich writes about personal networking in the latest issue of Forbes magazine (link--free with registration). She comes to the completely unsurprising conclusion that for most people networking is difficult and unpleasant.
She reveals the feelings of job-seekers (including herself, in another undercover escapade to gather material for a book) urged by life coaches to network, network, network. She cringes as she reads airport-bookstore-bestselling author Jeffrey Gitomer's advice to spend as little time as possible with each new acquaintance, the better to make more overall contacts. The way Ehrenreich describes it, networking is a predatory, utterly-calculated activity replete with victims and victimizers.
All of which misses the point. Of course, networking that is done purely for personal gain, where scores are kept, and especially when one is needy, can be pure agony for all involved. But that's not proper networking. (If it were, could it possibly have persisted?)
In the "Tao te Ching," Lao Tzu said, "Act before there is a problem. Bring order before there is disorder," and so it is with networking. If you begin network-building the day after you're laid off, you will find it a hard road indeed. When should you start? How about today?
At any rate, your "network" is a fancy term for your friends, relatives and acquaintances. Keith Ferrazzi, in his excellent book "Never Eat Alone," makes the point that talking about work with people we know is perfectly natural, and that keeping in touch with people, when you don't have an agenda, truly care about them, and are curious about them is one of the pleasures of life. [Ferrazzi's goal for new contacts made at an event: one. Have a nice day, Gitomer.]
In that context, when you know and touch enough people, they know what you do, and they are up to date with your situation. From that, opportunities will arise. And that's the point of networking.
(Thanks to the Wall Street Journal's Informed Reader blog for the tip.)