Networking: Essential or Overrated?

A client recently asked early in her Career Planner / Changer Program whether I could point her to some good resources about how to begin networking for a new job.  

My question was: how quickly do you need to move? 

A major component of networking, as classically defined in the career development world, is realizing that networking is a long-term investmenta concept that Shauna Bryce speaks eloquently about in our joint Eye on the C-suite presentations.

Indeed, networking is about developing real and authentic (to overuse that word) relationships that don't hinge on the singular hope that those real and authentic relationships will necessarily lead to a new job.

I recently concluded a multi-year coaching, in fact, during which the client and I talked at least once a month, developing and executing an incremental networking plan based on each month's efforts. His real and authentic activities and relationships ultimately turned into a role that he and I couldn't have predicted. 

So networking as a concept has its champions, realists, skeptics, and naysayers, and I've been thinking about it a lot lately. As so often happens, when you find yourself thinking a lot about a topic, it's soon all you can see.

Two stood out recently, coming from pretty different perspectives, both of which I respect immensely.

First up, Nick Corcodilos, who publishes the only newsletter I read every time it shows up in my inbox. In his article, Please! Stop Networking!, Nick boils the networking conundrum down to its essence. Here's a screen snip of Nick's on-point thinking. Click through the article link for the whole article.

The second came from BlueSteps, which is a product (or is it a service?) of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC). Using the Twitter hashtag #ExecCareer, BlueSteps crowd sourced from executive search consultants the dos and dont's of networking. Here's a snippet, with the rest available in the article and presumably available by searching the #ExecCareer hashtag.

Here's what I think: 

Too many people come to the "I need to network" realization when they're recently or soon to be out of a job. This is perhaps a reason why networking gets such a bad rap, because networking should actually just be building and cultivating friendships, and you can't falsely build real friendships just because you need something from people. The friendships already have to exist. 

Odds are high that you'll switch jobs sometime in the next few years. Why not start building your network of friends now?