I had a rather sad ‘souvenir spoon’ collection when I was seven. It didn’t do much but gather dust, but at the time I loved adding to it and watching it grow.
My daughter’s obsession at seven was collecting Pokémon, although computer games brought a whole new level to collecting. “Gotta catch them all” was the mantra as she caught, shared and swopped different varieties of pixelated characters (I’m a big Pikachu fan.)
The fact is people like collecting things. Reading the post “Hello friend, what’s your name again?” by Peter Gold really got me thinking that online networking was very ‘computer game –esque’ with people racking up high scores of followers, friends, likes, connections and retweets.
He points out that “One can have 10,000 followers on twitter and have very few real conversations” That it is not the size of your network but the depth of it.
You’re really going to need quality relationships when your job searching.
I’m often asked ‘What’s the best way of approaching my network when I need a job?’ Well it’s certainly easier if they know who you are and have interacted with you on occasions before your hour of need.
So how do you stop it from becoming a numbers game?
- Be interested in them. Now I’ll let you into a secret here. That doesn’t mean you have to ‘pretend’ to like them. To give empty compliments and hover until a moment when you can cash in your ‘supposed goodwill’. There are enough people in the playground to actually find those who you genuinely find interesting. To engage in topics and conversations that you want to pay attention to.
- Be open minded. It’s easy to surround yourself with a yes crowd, those you agree with, who sound just like you. One of the joys of networking (yes there are some I promise) is to gain a different perspective, to challenge your status quo. To find common ground where you least expect it and to explore your own opinion.
- Interact. Some of the best networkers I know simply respond to people around them. They aren’t pumping out loads of blog content, witty one liners, or profound 140 character statements. They just ask and answer questions. They reach out with “How are you?” “What’s new with you?” “What are your plans for this evening/weekend / holiday?” “How can I help with…?” Then they listen. Then they respond. Seems simple but they are posting on other people’s walls and not just decorating their own.
- Monitor your lurking. Yes it is scary to put yourself out there. Sometimes it’s too easy to hide behind the screen. I have found myself watching rather than taking part and that’s ok in moderation. Yet I realised that if I were actually in the room I would have commented, joined in. Challenge your behaviour if it’s not something you would normally do or say in face to face situations.
It’s not game over when you post a high score, it’s just the beginning and lots of us are new to it.
I’m striving to make them more than just a number, are you? Ask your network a direct question. Get a conversation started. If a spoon collector can give it a go so can you.
Break that lurking habit. So “What’s the hardest thing you find about networking either off or online?” and “What did you collect when you were younger?”
STOP PRESS: I’m attending the trulondon event for the first time next week, and instead of name badges they are asking us to sign up for network trading cards, looks like fun. Another network / game reference. I wonder if it will turn into Top Trumps? Are all connections potentially equal? I suppose that’s another post.
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Sarah Cooper has over 14 years Recruitment experience gained in both an internal and agency environment. As one of the founding Directors of McGinnis Loy Ltd, specialist Finance and HR Recruiters, she is still actively recruiting in the marketplace today. Follow her tweets @approachmarket