Why networking should be done differently by solopros than by job hunters
There are simple, obvious (when you think about it) reasons that networking by solopros (freelancers and consultants) should be done entirely differently from how those seeking full-time jobs do it.
To set the state for my observations, please remember that the job (or entrepreneurial) gods don’t reward you for frantic effort with little chance of paying off. It’s strategic networking that works.
Those looking for full-time jobs often seek a position that builds on their experience from the last job and may be in the same broad category, but they tend to be flexible on industry, niche within the industry, exact duties, etc. depending on the opportunities that present. This makes sense. They will be onsite 40 plus hours a week and will soon get up to speed on corporate and industry specifics.
However, job seekers narrow their search primarily by travel distance. Certainly a few people are open to moving cross country, but most limit their search to a certain distance from their home. Some are willing to spend an hour each way driving 50 miles or more, others insist upon walking to work, but either way, they have limits.
On the other hand, today’s solopros often work virtually from home with little guidance from clients. At the same time, they want to maximize their pay rates through specialization. Therefore, they search out opportunities that closely match their experience regardless of location.
This makes a world of difference in how job seekers and solopros network.
The common wisdom in conducting a job hunt is to tell everyone you know that you are looking. Not coincidentally, most of the people you know live in your community. They are most likely to identify leads in close proximity to you. If the job differs somewhat from what you’ve done in the past, not a problem (except perhaps in a very tight, inflexible job market).
In contrast, telling everyone you know exactly what you do can be exhausting and unproductive when you solopro. Your acquaintances don’t know what a DC-483X is and they still don’t know after you explain it. You are needlessly draining your energy in pursuing contacts that won’t pay off. People whose relationship with you is based largely on physical nearness often cannot help you no matter how much they would like to.
The local chamber of commerce may have no other members in your profession or industry. Even your local professional organization may not be sufficiently narrow in its focus.
Instead, save your networking money for the annual conference of a highly targeted organization, even if the event is hundreds of miles away.
Originally posted 8-31-09