Claudia's Wednesday Wisdom: Network? You bet. Now where's that paycheck?

Today's question comes to us courtesy of Maren Hogan, who recently asked this compelling question and gave me permission to bring it up here with you today. Please, add your brilliance to the discussion!

Dear Claudia,

How much networking is too much networking, and when do you need to translate community into dollars and sense? Is there any use in staying in front of people if you don't get their business?

Maren


Dear Maren,

I have to tell you, this question has been on my mind for a while too. And boy, does it get expensive to meet and greet with our customers, let alone our peers. Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, cha-ching. Association memberships, cha-cha-ching. Conferences, cha-ching cha-ching cha-ching. And that's just the direct financial hit; most of us can manage this with a strategy, or at least a quick look at the checkbook balance. Our parents were right, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

The indirect cost, and often the harder one to manage, is the time associated with building and maintaining a network. If you want the payoff, you actually have to show up and join the conversation. Add value. Lurking doesn't count. But all of the reading, chatting, blogging, twittering - that constant pursuit of connection and knowlege online - it's an eyelash away from overwhelming. Oh stop, you know it's true.

I don't know what the answer is, but I do like connecting the dots in disparate parts of my world. And here's where those dots are taking me now. Three years ago I shifted from hands-on recruiting to running a software company, and one of the best pieces of advice I got in that transition was to begin with an exit strategy in mind. Simply put, I needed to know when to cut my losses so I didn't gamble more than I was prepared to lose. I think about that a lot, three years into the game, in many contexts: the strategy of my business, managing money and time, even the friendships I make and nurture along the way. It was wise advice because it forces a balance between my head and my heart... and growing up is, I suspect, the art and science of finding and keeping balance.

Here's what I have learned so far about networking, community, and the financial connection between them:

1. Networking is a marketing activity that builds visibility. It's a tool, like business cards or a website. You gotta have it.

2. Unless it's a really crappy product or service, people do business with people they trust. Business seldom comes before trust, and it never stays without it.

3. Time is the most valuable thing I have to spend, and I get 24 hours every single day. If I'm not thoughtful about how to spend it, I lose it. Period. The bonus is that I can plan, and I can choose.

4. It's important to show up, but it's really important to let others know what you do and how you can help them when the time is right. Another wonderful person gave me that piece of wisdom along the way.

Networking is a variation on the matchmaking we do as recruiters, making connections that may (or may not) produce revenue for a long time to come. But you can't stop feeding the pipeline, because when you do it dries up. So go back to the basics to set your course, my friend: write down what you want from networking, the amount of time and money you're willing to spend on getting it, and how you'll recognize when it's time to try something else. Then just do it. Aim, measure, improve, repeat -- the secret sauce of success.


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In my day job, I’m the head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage engagement for competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

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The "just do it" part is where many people stumble. In "Get ready, set, begin!" there's safety in the get ready and the set but the begin seems to evade some. Why is this? Fear of failure? Fear of success?

"Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it." ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
You make an excellent point, Rayanne...
One of my colleagues whose billing is in the stratosphere, doesn't network at all. She doesn't even have a blackberry/smartphone, and no interest in Twitter or blogging communities. She puts all of her time and energy into recruiting and filling jobs...so her networking efforts are directly work related, she gets new clients as referrals from clients that she has wowed with her recruiting, and new candidates as well. I mentioned to her how much I love twitter, and the only drawback to it is that it can be a distraction, as I receive tweets with interesting links and rush to check them out. She just doesn't do that.

So, my point in mentioning that is that it got me thinking about this very question a few weeks ago, and I think social networking is great, getting your name out there online, in person, twitter, however....if it doesn't cut into the time you are spending doing your job. I look at networking efforts as extra time, and have had to discipline myself not to let my networking activities cut into the dedicated hours I need to spend recruiting and developing clients. Believe me, I could easily lose a few hours a day/with twitter and the net in general, but it's not productive, so I have had to set limits, such as "if I spend two hours heads down recruiting, then I can spend ten minutes on twitter, or here."

I've found that the social networking definitely pays off though, when you least expect it. I've had new clients come to me via facebook and candidates regularly via LinkedIn and Twitter. I also joined a local marketing association and have had candidates reach out to me based on that.

Pam
Great insight and content here. Great question Maren and great response and advice as always from Claudia. I think Rayanne (thank you for defending the lurker nation!), Maureen and Pam make very strong points here as well (again as you all always do- part of why I love this site!).

I agree with Pam just thinking about this- my friends that are producing at an amazing level and that are making an absolute killing do not do any of this, in fact they are completely lost when it comes to this site (even though I try to get them on!!) or linkedin or any others.

I like to think this information gives me an edge, and it does - however as the great Tony Robbins says....." it is never about resources, it is more about resourcefulness" and these people have the ability to make things happen time and time again through levels of work that is just unheard of (some of the friends I speak of routinely hit 150 dials a day with 5+ hours of phone time!), and again virtually do nothing on the internet to help their own personal brand.

I try to minimize and just do it as time allows (basically downtime/off time), because I think it does bring value (and knowledge)- however I think you have to study your vertical and schedule your time accordingly.

Great column and feedback!
I love this discussion. I find myself reading quite a few blogs on Recruitingblogs and being one of those people who lurks...(great word by the way). I love to listen to what other recruiters are saying. It’s great to get insight from those that have been in the business for longer than I have.

As for trying to be a contributor to my network- I have found that when I do post something , whether it’s a question or a blog, there aren't a lot of responses or maybe more pertinent to this blog…when I ask questions of my network I don’t get responses back or not as much as I hope for. I am not a daily contributor which might contribute to this as well. Sometimes it does make me wonder if there are others might be going through the same thing.
Josh, I love that you added your wisdom to this discussion. And your comment about the response to posted questions is really valid for most of us. This is unverified data (perhaps someone reading this can correct me if it's wrong?), but I was speaking with a friend this week who said that a mere 1% of any community actually speaks up routinely. For RBC that equates to just more than 100 people -- a very small minority, don't you think? All the more reason for throwing your thoughts into the mix as often as you feel for it.

Welcome to the pool, and thanks for jumping in!
Claudia, I think it's even LESS than that who contribute routinely! ONE reason for this reticence is the hostility some are met with when they DARE to contribute anything that is contrarian in popular theory. I find this disheartening in environments where SO MUCH can be learned through polite discussion. I wrote previously about this phenomenon here and here.

On the other hand, a wizened pundit with many more years experience online than I had at the time (several years ago) counseled me with similar words: that people will only respond when something lights a fire under them - usually when they disagree with something and want to get their viewpoints across.

It's a delicate political and problematic tightrope for many network administrators.

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” ~ Peter Marshall
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Attend the MagicMethod FREE one hour LIVE phone sourcing classroom chats on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon EST on the MagicMethod network here.
Isn't it funny how all roads lead back to Rome, so to speak? You and I have chatted here and there about the joys AND challenges of speaking up in online communities -- and that people do jump into discussions when they feel strongly about either side of a topic. Sometimes it just pays when you agree to disagree!
This article consist a really very important information about networking, community, and the financial connection,, According to my knowledge networking can also helping interacting with different type of people, it can make easy to communicate with them according to their perception and it can finally enhance your business.

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brianna

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