As Hunter Muller sees it, professional networking is analogous to the TV game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
"It's the power of the network, the power of the lifeline that helps people out," said Muller, president and CEO of The Advisory Council, an IT research and advisory service.
But for many people, there's a delicate line between networking and job hunting. IT and other executives who mingle with their peers to find new positions often end up distancing themselves from the very people they're counting on for support, according to IT executives who spoke last night at a meeting of the Fairfield Connecticut and Westchester New York chapter of the Society for Information Management.
"There's too much emphasis on networking and job hunting," said Adrie Reinders, president of OHM, a Netherlands consulting firm and co-author of the book, The N Factor: How Efficient Networking Can Change the Dynamics of Your Business.
"People who are networking to find a job create distance with their peers because they're about taking and wanting and networking is about giving and sharing," said Jeff Skulsky, CIO at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. "If you're networking to find a job, it's too late," he adds.
Sometimes soft-pedaling can be more effective.
When Rhona Kannon transitioned from a career as an IT professional into the IT recruiting market, she reached out to 150 people she knew but she wasn't pushy. "I said, 'Hi, how are you, this is what I'm doing now' without asking them for business," said Kannon, a partner at The Cambridge Group, a recruiter.
Those contacts, explained Kannon, responded well to her easy-going approach and she credits them for helping to build her business as a recruiter.
Networking "is about approaching people on their terms" without necessarily expecting something in return, said Ed Pospesil, chairman of the Technology Executives Networking Group, a network of 3,600-plus IT executives.
It's also an essential tool for would-be IT executives, said Pospesil.
"The people who network are those who make it to the executive ranks," he said. "The worker bees don't."