The “Failure” of Networking and the Successful Job Search

January 27, 2007

Recently, Jason Alba mentioned on his blog a study that showed that “higher level positions were NOT found through networking“.

Everyone goes around talking about the importance of networking, and I’m no different – I believe that a well-developed network is one of the most important resources for building a sucessful long-term career. So I had a really hard time believing Jason’s post.

And then, Jason pointed me to the original study. And I read it, and he’s right: that’s exactly what the study says.

From the study:

Among Executives 97% thought Target Marketing to companies was the best way to find a new job, regardless of the seniority of the job being sought…. Among Non-executives, 73% felt that Networking was the best way to find a job.

Oh, No!! It’s the death of networking! All the successful people use something other than networking!!

Luckily, my brain kicked in just before I clicked the “Cancel Account” button on my LinkedIn account.

Okay, enough of my being flip – there is an incredibly important point buried in here…

The executives (i.e. those who have been successful in advancing their careers) are doing more than just “networking”.

(Aside: while not all executives are successful and not all non-executives aren’t, it’s a useful distinction for simplicity within the bounds of this discussion. Thus, I’ll assume the distinction holds even though it’s not quite so clear-cut out in the real world)

The main differences here are of terminology and job-search paradigm: within the successful (i.e. executive) search, what we traditionally call “networking” is just one part of the strategy called “target marketing”. We’ll talk more about that in part 2 of the article.

The main difference between the successful job search paradigm and the paradigm of most less sucessful searchers can be summed up most easily in one sentence:

Executives are looking for something. Non-executives are looking for anything.

When it comes to their job search, executives (and successful non-executives) are looking for a job that fits their values, skills, and aligns with what they see as their calling (though they may not call it that). They’re not looking for “just a job” – they’re looking for a particular opportunity that fits with where they are going and where they are in their careers at that moment.

On the other hand, most non-executives are just looking for a “job”. So, they network in an unfocused way, hoping that the more people that they meet, the sooner they’ll turn up ANY opportunity. Which, no doubt, works to get jobs. However, it isn’t the way to best build a long-term, successful and (most importantly) fulfilling career.

This is why we see the difference in terminology between the executives and the non-executives in this study: what is called “target marketing” by the executive set actually includes what we traditionally think of as “networking”. But, when looking for a particular opportunity (instead of just any opportunity), the process of getting the job involves significantly more: it involves understanding your own calling, your skills, values and path, and how the company that you’re targeting aligns with each of those things. And it involves getting introduced into the organization at the right level in order to ensure that they are aware that your direction and theirs is aligned perfectly at that moment.

This is where traditional networking fails: you can’t know those things about a company, nor get the appropriate introductions without a well-developed network who you can call on when you need to. It’s not that excecutives don’t use networking – it’s that their entire job search is so much more broad that it can’t be simply called “networking”.

As I announced recently, I have a new book coming out that will detail exactly this type of “direct marketing” job search strategy. This is what “Flying the Plane” is all about – taking control of your job search and creating a strategy for getting the job directly.

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Forget the Parachute, Let Me Fly the Plane

January 24, 2007

I got an email from Jason Alba recently talking about the recent layoffs at Jobster. I haven’t blogged on it because it’s a non-event to me in a lot of ways – a lot of people get laid off from a lot of companies, and while this one’s an interesting story, I’ve been a little busy. (More on that later in this post)

More importantly, Jason was talking about the lack of personal branding of those who got laid off. From the post:

I’m amazed to not see more blogs. Actually, I was amazed that so many (past) employees of a web 2.0 company that has a very active CEO blogger haven’t done much to substantiate their personal branding online. Before I went through the 40 profiles I thought I’d have a TON of reading to do, going over each of their blogs. But I guess the reality is that too many people are spending all of their time on their job and no time on their career management. (Emphasis in the original)

This is an incredible point – too many of us spend a lot of time focusing on our jobs and very little time working on building a career that aligns with who we are and who we want to be.

In Jason’s email, he said: “I think there is a Part II to this story, and if it fits in your blog I’d love to see YOUR idea of what Part II would be. Could it be that no one is doing personal brand management? Could it be that this doesn’t matter? Or is there plenty of room to really make an impact?

Jason is right – there’s a part II to the story. We’re in a changing world. The statistics show that jobs are no longer what they once were. In a 48 Days podcast, Dan Miller quoted the statistic that by 2008, less than half of us will be employeed as traditional “employees”. I happen to think that’s a little aggressive, but the jobster layoffs are just a sign of the times: he way that we have been used to working is changing.

Because of that, we have to adapt to a new model of getting and keeping jobs. It’s no longer about blasting out your resume and getting whatever job someone wants to give you – that only ensures that you get a job that doesn’t fit. It’s like sending out a million orders to clothing stores to “send you something”, and hope that they send you something that fits.

All of the new rules suggest that it’s time to stop worrying about what color your parachute is, and start thinking about how to fly the plane that is your life and your career to the destination of your choosing. That is how we make a real impact in our careers in these new times.

In early February, I’ll be releasing my first book on exactly that topic. The book is called: Forget the Parachute, Let Me Fly the Plane.

In the next few days, I’ll be announcing a way that you can get a sneak peak at the first chapter. Stay tuned here and at

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Meeting Cool People

January 17, 2007

The best thing about conferences, as I have said, is meeting cool people. I was walking back into the Speed Geeking room after my previous post about Beansec, and I almost ran into a woman. I looked down at her name tag, and it said Anne.

Of course, from this post, I knew that Anne Zelenka from Anne 2.0 was going to be here, so I stopped her and asked. And, after that moment of awkward “not-really-a-celebrity-recognition” thing that most non-celebrities who get recognized by total strangers have, it turned out that it was Anne.

And, of course, I that uncomfortable post-introduction moment of “okay, now what do I say?” Even though I’ve become quite good at networking over the years, I still carry around some of that “high-school geek discomfort” that creeps up most often when I meet someone whose work I admire.

And I have to admit, Anne’s one of my favorite bloggers – her post about her 2007 goals is one of the best posts I have read in the past little while. I happened to read it while I was coming up with my own 2007 goals, and it inspired some different thinking – her goals have a “realness” that I find all-too-often lacking in my own… while she’s clearly trying to change the world, she’s doing it while watching her son play the Canadian national anthem on trumpet. I often find my own sounding far too much like something Tony Robbins would write, and loved the humanity in what she wrote.

That post was my first exposure to her writing, and I have since really enjoyed her writing over at Web Worker Daily.

Anne’s also covering Mashup Camp for GigaOM – check out her coverage here.

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The Un-Conference Principles

January 17, 2007

As the speaker just said, the principles of these “un-conferences” are a great thought on living your life (or running your business, or…) For those who haven’t been at one of these conferences before, they’re incredibly informal and they run on these four rules:

1. Whoever comes are the right people.
2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
3. Whenever it starts is the right time.
4. When it’s over, it’s over.

And, The Law of Two Feet:

If at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing – use you two feet and move to some place more to you liking.

These are also known as the Open Space principles. According to one of the speakers here, the rules came from the idea of “making the entire conference more like the coffee breaks”.

What I find interesting about that is that I always believe that the most important learning and accomplishments at any conference I have ever been at has happened outside the conference sessions. Whether it’s RSA or Blackhat, I always get a lot more out of what happens at the parties and get-togethers in the evening than I have in the sessions.

I think that I’d even postulate it as a general rule – the connections you build at a conference is far more interesting and long-lasting than whatever you learned in the conference session.

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Coaches Panel Part 1 – Without the skills, you only go so high…

January 11, 2007

In the final teleseminar in 2006 (and, yes, there are more coming up in 2007, so sign up in the box at the top right of the blog to get notified), I talked with Dan Sweet of Fracat and Ron Vereggen, the Geek Coach.

Following up well on the heels of Scott Blake, we talked a good amount about what is required to build a successful technology career both now and in the future. And, as in the discussion with Scott, this didn’t focus on technological skills as much as it did around business, communication and social skills.

Dan and Ron are both brilliant and full of insight. Click here to listen to the podcast.

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Scott Blake Part 3 – MBAs instead CISSPs

January 9, 2007

That the security world is changing is obvious to anybody who has been a part of it for the past few years. In this third part of my interview with Scott Blake, CISO-in-residence at Echelon One, we talk a good deal about the way that those changes are affecting the security professional.

This one’s not to be missed – in this one, Scott and I discuss the nature of the changes in the skill sets and the way that the changing security field will affect the development of the career.

Click here to download the episode

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The Importance of Values

January 9, 2007

Anna over at The Engaging Brand has an interesting post on compromise:

Compromise is defined as “settle a dispute by making a concession”

Look at that word settle – does it make you shiver, it does me! Why settle? This made me think how many times a day do you end up being a slave to time, to pressure, to workload and “compromise or settle for something that is not quite right but will do”

When it comes to building a brand – be it product, service or an employment brand I believe that values cannot be compromised otherwise you dilute the promise

I completely agree with Anna, but I think that the point goes even beyond this: values aren’t just something that can’t be compromised when building a brand, what you value IS your brand.

This is especially true when it comes to building a personal brand: your values, to a large extent, are your personality. Jeffrey Gittomer described it best in the Little Black Book of Connections when talking about making connections while golfing:

On the golf course everything is exposed. Your manners. Your ethics. Your knowledge of the game. And your personal habits. They’ll never remember the score of the round, but they will always remember that you cheated on the third hole.

Whoever you present yourself as on the golf course — is the image they have of you as the person they will be doing with afterwards — or not.

This is true whether on the golf course or not – whatever you show that you value is how you present yourself as a brand. If you value money, your brand will be about money. If you value helping and connecting with people, that will be your brand. And if you don’t value a brand, that will be your brand: nothing.

So, be aware of what you decide to value in your life. And become aware of what you currently value. Because those things are already communicating themselves out as part of your brand.

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Cheating is the Only Way to Succeed

January 8, 2007

When I was in second grade, my best friend Dave Dorey used to get incredibly mad at me whenever we’d have a test to do (usually a spelling or math test – I always was good at adding 2+2 and spelling dog and cat… still am, actually).

So, anyways, I used to annoy Dave to no end when we were doing a test, because I would often lean over and tell him when he had made a mistake on his test. I always was the helpful sort, and I just wanted to make sure that he was doing well – so, I’d help him out by letting him know when he got the answer wrong.

And he’d always do the same thing: he’d make a face, and he’d hiss at me under his breath:


Because, of course, in second grade, that’s what getting the answers from the guy next to you is, whether you look or whether he volunteers. I was reminded of this story when I was listening to Robert Kiyosaki a few weeks ago, and he talked about the school system being incredibly bad at preparing us to have success in the world of business. And I realized that it’s true – the incentive system is completely backwards in grade 2 to the way it is in the real world:

School Rules: The teacher knows all of the answers. You get highly rewarded for having as many of the same answers as the teacher does.
Business Rules: No one person knows all the answers. You get highly rewarded for knowing enough people that you can find the right person when you need an answer.

What was cheating back then has become the way to success. It’s probably the one thing that I’ve learned over the past 10 years – when I came out of school, I thought that being the smartest was going to take me to success. What I realize now is that being smart is always nice, but that it’s being helpful that makes other people want to get to know you, and be willing to give you access to their answers later.

Turns out that I had it figured out in second grade. It just took me a long time to figure it out. Now, I spend a significant part of my time leaning over and trying to help other people pass their tests, and it’s rewarding.

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Scott Blake Part 2 – Security and Tidal Waves

January 5, 2007

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been in the middle of a big change of web-hosting companies, which has kept me from posting the podcasts as quickly as I’d like. That change is now done, and you’ll see the rest of the 2006 teleseminars popping up over the next couple of weeks.

This one is the second part of my interview with Scott Blake of Echelon One. In this episode, we talk about how the role of security is changing with the focus on compliance, and how our communication needs to change.

And how we could all be dead in the next couple of hours from a huge tidal wave.

You will just have to listen to figure out how that all fits together…

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Finding the Fortune

January 3, 2007

Over at his blog, Paul Allen talks about a recent talk that he attended on internet marketing. There are a few brilliant gems in that article, but this one was the most important, as I see it:

Chris’s main point is that a very important part of internet marketing is capturing email addresses from customers so that you can follow up with them with useful information and offers. He kept saying, “the fortune is in the followup.”

While this is true in internet marketing (and, while you’re reading this, please enter your email address in the box on the right so that I can follow up with you), this is especially true when it comes to building a network and building a career. Keeping in touch with people and ensuring that you follow up with them when you need to is the way that you build strong connections throughout your network, and build a strong team of people around you.

This is one that I have struggled with throughout my career – follow-up is one of the simplest concepts in theory, but one of the most difficult in practice. But it’s really one of the main keys to a long and successful career.

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