I was really disappointed in the message conveyed in the recent article in Forbes, Down But Not Out: Why Do People Resist the Idea of Networking? The author mentions that many people hate networking because it seems fake, even deceptive. One person she interviewed says "You aren't meeting people because you want to make friends or find allies, but because you want something from them."
This definition describe how people abuse their networks, not how they build them. Many people neglect their network until they are in job search. If you haven't talked to someone in eight years and then you try to rekindle the relationship when you are in search mode, the problem is not that you look fake, the problem is that you are fake. When a relationship is mismanaged or abandoned for a significant period of time, the value of the relationship can diminish significantly, to the point where it may be extremely awkward and difficult to revive.
Networking can also be perceived as deceptive when people ask for information too soon in the relationship, before they have established rapport and trust. You build value in the relationship by repeatedly offering support or information to your network before you need something. By giving more than you get, you establish credibility and good standing within a particular community.
Networking isn't really a job search tool, but rather a career management tool. It works best for people who nurture their network, and build authentic, caring relationships throughout their careers. When these people find themselves in a job search, there is no awkwardness in reaching out to their network and the information, contacts, and leads come much easier. Networking does work and it has played an integral part in the success of several well known business people such as Keith Ferrazzi and Harvey Mackay. It has also had a major impact on less mainstream, but equally savvy professionals, including Heather Hamilton, Scott Ginsberg, David Teten, Kent Blumberg, and Jason Alba.
If you are currently in a job search, review your network carefully, assess the quality of your current relationships, and find ways to build new relationships through professional and personal contacts and affiliations. If you have been somewhat negligent in maintaining your network, you can still make your network work for you provided you are creative, authentic, and patient.
Posted by Barbara Safani