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Monday, December 26, 2011

Channukah Hints, Jewrican Factoids #7: Real networking

The main difference, I think, between LinkedIn and Facebook--besides Facebook being more fun, and having more unfortunate photos--is that while on Facebook, if you want to have, say, a thousand "friends"...hey knock yourself out. Especially when a good third of those 'friends' are just pretty girls who wouldn't even cross the street to have coffee with you. (But I digest.)
On LinkedIn, however, I would argue that you want to send and accept those invitations to connect v-e-r-y carefully. You want to think about whom you're networking with. This is a rule of thumb that you should apply to all your networking opportunities: whom are you networking with, and what's your goal? 
In New York, for example, you can go to a networking event pretty much seven nights a week. What with sites like Meetup, and Gary's Guides or Freelancers Union, just to name a few, you could literally drink cheap pinot griot almost every night. And the point is...? Yes, drinking alone can be depressing. I have heard that. Much more depressing, in my opinion, is to go to some of these small business/entrepreneurs networking events. The last time I went to one of those Meetups, the social dynamic was bizarre: I was accosted by an Israeli t-shirt maker who wanted me to invest in his brand; an insurance agent asked me if I offered any "other services" (ahh you clever boy!); and there were probably some other miscellaneous "people" whom I have since mercifully blotted out of my consciousness. 
That was not networking. That was a huge waste of time and mascara. 
Networking is meeting people with whom you have some kind of real connection. By 'real,' I mean you went to school with them, you worked with them, you have similar interests, you both did serious work in the same industry, you have a real relationship with someone in common. There's something about each other that you recognize. Going to an alumni event for your grad school is networking. Going to a small biz event in midtown held by some local business "guru" will depress you. 
Another issue: people who go to networking events without any real idea of whom they want to meet and why. I was at one event, last year, and a recent college grad stood up and said, "I need a job..anyone? Anyone?" (Bueller?) On the one hand: he had just graduated from college, so let's cut him some slack. But I know people, who graduated college a decade or more ago, and still "network" by saying, "Oh, well, maybe I'll meet someone interesting, I don't know." (That sound you hear is me rolling my eyes into next week.)
Awesome as it would be, it's no one else's job to figure out your career. And, crucially: if you don't know what you're looking for, how will you find it? Exactly.
So, if you have, to chose a random number, 300+ LinkedIn connections, and are either un- or under-employed, I would strongly suggest you spend some time going through all of those connections: what is their connection to you? What do they do? What do you have in common? How could they help you? If you realize that 250 of those 300 connections are random people you met at a party once and have never spoken to might be time to start seriously fine-tuning your networking to make it actually work for you, as opposed to simply a numbers game. 
Jewrican Factoid #7: I enjoy latkes and ropa vieja equally. (Come on, I'm fighting a cold...give me a break.)


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