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.