Thursday, May 26, 2011

Organic and Rational Networking

Networking is a word that is becoming more and more popular in today’s society thanks to social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The problem with networks and networking isn’t about what it is but how to do it effectively. Over the next couple of postings I want to break down this subject and look at the types of networks people have, how to grow a network and finally look at how to maintain that network once your job search has ended.

Types of Network

Everybody on this planet has a network and with enough digging we are able to connect ourselves to other people, it’s how the six degrees of Kevin Bacon (or separation as it is technically called) was developed. These networks can be broken down into two categories: Organic and Rational.

Organic networks are ones that grows naturally and normally over long periods of time. They start out with family and friends and then develop as you make more personal connections through school or work. The issue with organic networks in relation to job searching is that they are limited in scope. If I were to look at my own organic network (ignoring my friends at work), then there is no-one in that circle that could provide me with advice or potential job leads to further my career. This is a problem that is faced by a number of job seekers, especially if they have moved to a new area in order to find employment.

In contrast rational networks are developed based on a targeted or rational decision to connect with someone based on a perceived connection you have with them. For example Joe Blogs works as an employment counsellor at a local college, because we work in the same field it makes sense to try and connect with him. Having said this, rational networks have their own issues which are mostly connected to the person at the heart of the network; you. For a lot of individuals making a connection or even just talking with another individual outside of their organic network can be very difficult. There is also the issue of the type of industry that you are looking at, in some cases the potential number of connections can be limited based on their number or even their location.

When it comes to job searching the type of network that you can depend on with vary based on the industry you are in and how established your current networks are. Some individuals may have a large organic network but due to a lack of experience or having to make a career change may have a limited rational network. For other individuals they are only able to rely on the rational network as they left their organic one behind when they moved locations.

For those interested in seeing what these types of network look like, we can turn to social media for some great examples.

Facebook started out as an example of an organic network. Connections were initially made based on the school you attended. After time they expanded this to include regions (such as St Catharines-Niagara) to its present state which enables you to connect with anyone at a push of a button.

Linkedin on the other hand is an example of a rational based network. In order to connect with people you need to be able to demonstrate exactly how you are connected to these individuals, either through work, school or as part of a LinkedIn’s group. These groups by the way can be a great way of finding people in your industry and introducing yourself to them at the same time prior to making the actual connection.
In my next post I will share some ideas on how to grow and develop networks both in-person and online.