Social NetworkingSo you say you've got a strong network, huh? You say that you've 900 friends on MySpace and that your Facebook cup runneth over? You're boasting that your LinkedIn profile now carries that fancy little +500 icon and that you're networker to be reckoned with? Gosh, that's great for you.

I suppose my next question is... Why?
I'm of the opinion that there are "networkers" and there are "Networkers." So what follows is a fast rant of RecruiterGuy's take on the difference - but first let's look at a quick (although selective) definition of the word "Network"

net·work - [net-wurk]
- an association of individuals having a common interest, formed to provide mutual assistance, helpful information, or the like: a network of recent college graduates.
- to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, esp. in finding employment or moving to a higher position: His business lunches were taken up with networking.

Let's sort through the muck, shall we?
A "networker" may have a MySpace, Facebook, or LinkedIn page that is overflowing with connections. While this doesn't in and of itself mean that they are accepting friend requests indiscriminantly, it can be a sign that we might find them hovering over the 'accept' button just waiting for more 'friends' to reach out to them.
The friends of this particular kind of networker may not have a single common interest outside of seeing who can have the largest following. The comments box or 'wall' found on one of their profile pages may be riddled with band promotions or self-serving links or marketing pitches from people within their contacts list. I wonder if having 900 friends without a single interest in common is good for anything outside of... well - anything.

While the acceptance of these requests creates an impressive list of networking contacts on the surface - is it really a network by the definition above or is it more of a 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon validation?

A "Networker" might also have a large list of contacts or 'friends' and could even be so bold as to boast they've only 3 degrees of separation between them and the world - to be clear, it's not the volume of the network that decides if this Networker is truly networking or just list stacking. Truth be told, it's not for anyone to decide if someone else's network is effective no matter what the size.

Think about how companies market a product that might only appeal to a niche market. The marketers don't blindly saturate the earth with their product information - ideally they'll target the group they're after and work on getting the word out to the niche of interest. It's their mission to perfect their message and spread the word to those that can most serve their interests. This is what an effective "Networker" does - after all, networking is about relationships and marketing ourselves and our connections.

Run this quick litmus test on your network.Pick one of your networking lists (LinkedIn is a great for this example!) and ask yourself why you're using this particular networking channel.

Let's assume that the reason you're using your selected network of choice is to connect with people within your industry that might help you advance your career. A self serving but valid reason for sure.
Now simply ask yourself the following question, "Will this network serve the purpose for which I established it?"
Think about it: A band trying to get the word out; A recruiter expanding their reach within their industry; A job seeker looking for advancement; A world traveler seeking new and exciting beers to try - okay... work with me here.

When you've run this quick test on your network(s) you can then ask yourself one more quick question...Is it time to re-think your networking approach or is it just time to make sure your contact information is updated?

originally posted here...

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