Why pressing the flesh is still the key to great networking

Social media might be changing the way we communicate, but face-to-face networking is apparently still a better way to get a new job.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 16 Aug 2011
Bad news for those wallflowers who dread an evening of awkward introductions and uncomfortable conversation:  more than a quarter of new job opportunities in 2011 came about through face-to-face networking, a survey of 13,400 people by 'talent and career management' consultancy Right Management suggests. This is higher than the number who secured new positions through internet job boards (17%) and far higher than the 3% who said that online networking was successful in landing them a new job.  

The good news for recruitment agencies is that they're still by some distance the most popular source of jobs: 36% of respondents found work this way. But it's a very different story for newspapers: in 2008, they accounted for 21% of new roles, but this year it was down to a measly 2%. No wonder the industry's having such a hard time financially at the moment (as all those poor News of the World journalists will attest tonight).

Of course, in practice the dividing lines are not always as clear as this survey might lead you to conclude. Job opportunities can emerge from a combination of factors - for instance, some of the networking done in the ‘old fashioned’ way comes about via social networks like Twitter. ‘A job seeker can use the Internet to track down an acquaintance and then they can reach out to them in person,’ says Jayne Carrington of Right Management.  Nowadays it’s not unusual to have made some contact with a prospective employer through the internet before meeting them in person.  

Equally, a fair amount of successful career-related networking is down to luck; MT spoke to a City lawyer recently who got her first big break in a corporate law firm after she happened to sit next to the firm’s senior partner at a dinner.  And it's those kind of occasions when face-to-face interaction comes into its own; online relationships rarely have the same quality of contact(although who knows, maybe Facebook's new video service will change that in time).  Networking might not be a particularly comfortable process for many people, but it’s worth fixing that grin and sallying forth if you want to seek out that next big career opportunity.

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