How do you react when someone tells you that you need to be networking to have a productive job search? Do you say, “Network? Oh, no, I can’t do that!” or just throw up your hands in horror? With all the technology-fueled job search trends around these days, you might think, “Hey, I don’t need to network. I can just put my resume online and email it to people.”
Sorry, but you can’t get out of it that easily. Technology can serve as a tool for networking, but it’s not a substitute.
In the “old days” (really old!), job seekers used to call contacts or employers and not even get a chance to leave a voice-mail message. Email as a tool basically didn’t exist (see, I told you this was the really old days). Faxing, if you had access, was one way to communicate but not exactly interactive and not very personal.
Then along came technology advances that changed the job search rules permanently. Now, if you ignore the potential uses of technology, you’re likely to find yourself outpaced by your competition. As I’ve said before, ignorance is NOT bliss.
If you need a good way to organize your existing network and maintain contact with key members (those you’re actually building relationships with), technology can certainly offer assistance. It can also make your task easier with regard to keeping track of actions you’ve taken or plan to take, the timing for those, and so on. Depending on how computer-savvy you are and what your needs are, a simple Excel spreadsheet might suffice. To get more advanced support, you could try a program like Jibber Jobber to manage multiple aspects of your job search.
The point is: You need to consider how technology can help you network…and how it can’t.
The core of successful networking focuses on the relationship-building mentioned above. You can wiggle around that requirement all you want, but it won’t go away. You still need to form and build strong relationships if you hope to have a fully functional network. Of course, if you don’t care about that, you could skip the relationship building, but then, what’s the point of trying to have a network at all?
Networking without technology’s help doesn’t mean you never use technology. It does mean that you evaluate what you need and want to achieve with your network and identify actions that don’t rely on technology. This might include arranging in-person face time with key connections or communicating with them by phone (oh, wait, that’s using technology!)–or even employing what some people these days consider antiquated methods, such as mailing a handwritten note to a connection to express appreciation for something he/she has shared with you or done to help you.
It could also mean doing something that I just did last week: attending a professional conference in your field to connect or reconnect in person with people you know but don’t see often, as well as people you haven’t met yet. A well-planned conference should give you ample opportunity for networking in friendly circumstances–not only in conference sessions but in the hallways between sessions (in fact, some of the most effective networking happens then).
Whatever you do about networking, please don’t close the door on it before you’ve even stepped inside. If you do, you’ll lose out on possibly irreplaceable value to strengthen your job search.