On March 24th Bob McIntosh posted a blog titled “80% of today’s jobs are landed through networking.” The article was well articulated and discussion ensued that pulled at the very fabric of what networking is, how to use it, how important it is, and how is it defined. Some astute readers identified a lack of support for the statistics as a perpetuating concern (strong ideas Karen and Sandra); others identified the notion of causality (excellent point Kyle). The question really should start with what is networking – I bet ABC and their 80% statistic overlooked the whole notion. For us it is a critical element as recruiters and coaches. What is the real notion of networking about? When is networking really networking instead of just a 3rd degree contact on LinkedIn?
I think few would disagree that networking is not quantity but quality that defines the value of and perhaps defines a network. This means that networks are not measured by the number of friends on Facebook or connections on LinkedIn. Yet we all know someone who had 500+ Facebook friends but actually struggles to find help when they are putting up a new fence. This is not a network; it is a Rolodex of names. It is the signals that you have not met a networker but a collector. Collectors in your network provide very little value, no matter how many you have or what industry they are in.
We must realise that the word network is an abused and overused word. We may need to start differentiating by suggesting new terms that identify the bond structure of the network. For example, the collector with 500 Facebook friends is an example of an Air Network – loose bonds, scattered, uncontained, unreliable, and everywhere. Water Networks may identify a strengthened bond within a network – fluid, transferable, strong and flexible. Solid Networks are the unbreakable bonds and can range from dirt to diamonds metaphorically speaking. Water and Solid Networks, would have the ability to speak about each other terms that go beyond our jobs – these are the networks that will really work for you and who you should be working for. In a finite day we can only manage so much which is why we have three levels of networks, all active but certainly not all of equal value.
Which of the three network types contributes to the statistic quoted by ABC at 80%? Perhaps the statistic is referring to something as loose as Air Networks which are not much more than one time chance meetings or single email connections, representing another statistic without depth. A single email does not qualify as a network yet many of us claim it and are even proud of it. What I hope is that the ABC 80% refers to the water and solid type networks. This then would have direction and value, learning and insight as it would serve as direction to the type of networks that add value instead of painting all networks with the same brush of value.
Robyn Henderson, in his book Understanding Influence for Leaders at all Levels, said it best, “Many people think that networking is something that you do, rather than a way that you live. Networking is a life skill, rather than something you do only when you want something.” If we spoke about networks in this way we would be taking about something far more valuable, coaching others regarding life skill of greater worth, and removing the notion that networking is hard, because it is not – it only requires a change in perspective. Perspectives that were so well stated by Bob McIntosh: law of reciprocity, give without expectation and you will receive.
Executrade – Your Recruitment Specialist