Real Networking Means Turning Hashtags into Real People

Every time I meet one of my social media heroes in real life there is always  a short Wayne’s World moment when I have to resist the temptation to bow down to my rock star friend and shout “We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy…” to the room. Usually, they turn out to be humble enough not to ask me to kneel, bow, or kiss their ring. Real people have characteristics unique to themselves and sometimes you have one impression online and then find out differently in live conversation. Most of the time the real deal is more like the online persona… the aloof will be cordial and speak when spoken to, the cynical will challenge everything you say, and the true friend will be just as happy to meet you as you are to meet them. Networking also means finding out who you can call out of the blue for an answer to a question and for which online friends you would gladly answer that call.

This is how networks are supposed to work. In the sourcing world there are advocates for different methodologies and sometimes experts disagree. The whole community is a better place because even a disagreement on one of the finer points can contribute to the total body of knowledge on the subject. I learned recruiting from mentors in the corporate world and true sourcing came later from some of my virtual sourcing heroes. Some short-sighted corporate recruiting managers not only fail to see the value of sourcing as a separate and equal entity they forbid recruiters to phone source. Whether out of blissful ignorance or willful obedience to authority, most corporate recruiters will resort to internet sources rather than actively use that idle instrument on their desk for anything other than receiving voicemail. Networking includes use of all the tools not just the ones “we have always used” and candidate sourcing is the epitome of professional networking.

The true professional in any field never stops learning. We take classes, go to workshops, attend conferences and meet people who know more than we do. How sad that we can go to a meeting or conference with an expectation that we will only learn from the person that has the best glitzy PowerPoint presentation. The fact is that the real learning happens before the conference begins, during breaks, at lunch, and meet-ups afterward. The presenter may have a particular expertise so we pay to add to their knowledge to ours, but meeting them up close and personal goes beyond visual bullet points. Others in attendance may have a different slant on the topic that will go unnoticed without further dialog. Being in proximity to great questions from others is also a benefit of the between sessions dialog. I call this networking, but others may just call it common sense.

One of my jobs is being a part-time job seeker advocate. It is truly frustrating to see how many are desperate to find work, but never meet anyone personally who can help them. Sometimes shy people have to be prodded a little, but for the most part it is because they are like the old school passive post and pray recruiter with a nose to a computer screen all day. I urge them to think like the active recruiter who is sourcing candidates and to turn reverse-sourcing into an active job search. The techniques for success are the same. I can use a Boolean search online to find candidates, so why can’t they do the same to find a lead? I can pick up the phone and find key players in a company by using and expanding my network. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for both sides and can help applicants and jobs find each other, but only in rare instances will it work with only online contact. Successful networking requires taking it into real life. Electronic communication includes moving the dialog from an online social media site into email and telephone. The next step is a meeting at Starbucks for coffee… networking gone live.

I used the word “text” before it was a verb, remember when a “friend” was somebody you actually knew, and when “network” was where you got your TV entertainment. What a great world we live in now when even the meanings of words has evolved.

Image credit: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo