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Posted: April 17, 2013

Best of CoBiz: Six reasons why your networking isn’t working

...and four things that actually work

John Heckers

So you think you're networking all of the time but you aren't getting the job leads you want? The likelihood is that you're networking in the wrong places or in the wrong way. You, honestly don't have time to do that. It is brutal out there! The longer you are unemployed the rougher things are going to get for you. So don't waste time (or money) on so-called "networking events" that don't actually get you real networking contacts. Here are a few you should avoid.

1). "Support groups." One of the first things many people do when they become unemployed is to join a "networking group." Many of these groups are thinly disguised emotional support groups for the unemployed. Emotional support is a great idea, but getting it from these groups and other unemployed people can actually be very demotivating and destructive to your job search. Don't bother.

2). Groups that give you few actual leads. There are a variety of leads groups out there. Unfortunately, most of the "leads" these groups share are published and/or generally available. Look, only someone wanting to commit job-search suicide would share a lead to an unpublished job. Fair enough. But why waste your time on a group where you're only going to get "leads" you already have?

3). Large group meetings. These meetings will mostly contain vendors who want you to buy something, not people with whom you can actually network. Most of them cost money to attend, which is fine....if they had actual people you could network with there.

4). Meetings where you cannot "legally" exchange information. There is one group that has "networking meetings" for members and non-members. The problem? Only members are allowed to exchange information with one another. Information exchange does take place...in the restroom or the hall. This meeting costs some bucks to attend, as well, but is little more than a marketing tool for the company that runs these. If there is a group like that in your area - don't bother.

5). Attending meetings where the same people show up every week or month. What a waste of time! You know these people, so meet them one-on-one for coffee. You don't have time to go and "just say ‘hi.'" If you must go to a networking meeting, go to one where you'll meet new people.

6). Networking groups that are for just one job title. There are some groups that have sprung up for, as an example, CIOs. Don't bother. While some industry groups (like COFENG, for example), can be very valuable, meeting with your competitors to "exchange leads" is just absurd. Job-search suicide! Don't share with your competitors where you're interviewing. In fact, keep your big mouth totally shut, especially if it is a lead that you got through real networking.

Worse than the actual wasted time (if anything could be worse) is that you'll think you're actually doing something useful in your job search when you're not. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when you have not actually done anything useful at all. So what works? A couple of things.

1). Build your network person by person. Many of the people who can actually help you don't have time to go to these networking events. Start by talking to everyone you know and ask them to whom you should be speaking now. Then ask those people the same thing. This is actually networking.

2). Specialty networking events. There are a couple of events that turn people over each month. You'll meet new people at these who might actually help you.

3). Industry groups. There are a variety of industry groups out there, including, in Colorado, COFENG, CSIA, the Colorado Bioscience Association and CRES. These associations have a variety of employed and unemployed people, and fewer vendors than the "y'all come" networking events.

4). Employers who turn you down. If you happen to get a call from an employer letting you know someone else got the position you'd interviewed for, ask him or her where else you should look. Everyone feels bad about turning someone down, and they might be willing to help.

The biggest mistake you can make in your job search is to waste time. Every month you go unemployed, you are "burning" at least several thousand dollars. As well, employers are getting more hesitant about hiring those who have been long-term unemployed. Network well and it works. Network poorly and you're just spinning your wheels.

John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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