Recently, I went to Cornell to speak to the MBA students about networking. Whenever I go somewhere to speak, there’s a lively Q&A session afterward, and Cornell was no exception. I love the questions after a speech becuase I always learn so much from the discussion. I couldn’t stop thinking about the topic, so I wrote two posts on the plane trip home:

Yahoo Column: Three Common Networking Missteps. Actually, I had a list of four missteps. But one of them was that you need to be vunerable in order to connect with people. I linked to my post about my marriage falling apart, and my editor was like, If someone told me this, I’d think they were crazy. So now the list of missteps is only three.

Cheezhead Xtra: Networking with Jerks. This post is on Joel Cheesman’s new site. And he proves his likability by letting me write a post about why he is a jerk.

15 replies
  1. Shefaly
    Shefaly says:

    Penelope:

    I am curious.

    Which of the jerks reading the Yahoo column and anonymously being trolls would _anybody_ like to network with? :-/

    I think jerks are best avoided. Joel C is not a jerk; he is just clear about his objectives. And if one were to use the dating analogy thing in networking, one would tell jerks from a mile and run. Did we all not learn this too?

  2. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    I really enjoyed the column at Joel’s. It’s true that networking with people who are hard to work with or are jerks is a challenge, but hey, why cut anyone out of your network.

    Plus, the ability to harmonize with all types of people demonstrated through a network that contains jerks is a brilliant career asset.

  3. sarahd
    sarahd says:

    I can live with networking with people who annoy me, or rub me up the wrong way for whatever reason. Makes me more tolerant, and it’s character strengthening :) But networking with jerks? Like, REAL jerks? Nah, life’s too short…

    * * * * *
    I agree. That’s the place to draw the line. Working with jerks day in and day out is too much.

    –Penelope

  4. Eric Ogunbase
    Eric Ogunbase says:

    Penelope,

    I liked the post on Joel’s site. I’m glad to have found your blog. You’re absolutely right…the way to test how well you network is to network with some jerks. But I’m sure Joel could be worse. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  5. Ross
    Ross says:

    Penelope,
    My fear is that if I follow your career advice, then the probability of my marriage falling apart will increase. I have a great marriage to an absolutely lovely woman, as well as a fantastic career. Your latest Yahoo networking article provides absolutely terrible advice, and the Yahoo readers have responded with some very critical comments concerning that column. I’ve noticed that your Yahoo columns are getting progressively worse (my opinion, or course), and this may be due to stress brought on by your failing marriage. Perhaps you should take a break from writing career advice until you can get your personal life on track. My hunch is that Yahoo readers are going to go on the attack against any of your future columns – which will only put more stress on you and your personal life. Which is more important, career or family?

  6. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    Penelope, I think you make some good points in your Yahoo networking column. And, although I agree with your editor, that using the issues in your marriage to make points about networking is probably distracting enough to your readership that it’s not worth it. But,I do think there’s an aspect of vulnerability that is an important part of the networking process. Scott Ginsberg, aka (that guy with the nametag), calls it “approachability”. (www.hellomynameisscott.com) I think there are some connections between exposing some vulnerability, being approachable and truly effective networking. Means being open to the idea that someone has something or can do something to be helpful to you (which requires exposing the vulnerability that you could possibly benefit from assistance, as well as the willingness to be helpful to others.
    Thanks for the thoughts.

  7. Beth
    Beth says:

    I really enjoy your blog and yahoo column and I find your advice insightful and realistic, especially for a professional. I honestly don’t know what all the Yahoo readers are talking about (ie the post on sexual harassment or dressing like a woman. As a business professional and a woman, I could not agree more! And women are given advice, like wearing make-up, by professionals to help their career.)

    I happen to be extremely shy when I first meet someone (all my friends disagree with the shy part, but I don’t think they remember me carrying around books when they first met me) and become very nervous in large groups and network settings. However, this is not a problem with smaller groups, and so I work hard to meet with people in more intimate settings who I feel that I have a lot to learn from and networking with is important. I have had great success in this regard. So again, wonderful advice.

    I don’t know about networking with jerks though. However, since you can’t ever get away from all of them, it is best to keep a good relationship by ignoring the more ignorable flaws. I have oddly had a lot of practice in interesting ways (I went to an ivy league school and returned to the midwest, and you would not believe how many people seem to have a problem with that), and the old adage of smile and nod is so true!

  8. Dale
    Dale says:

    I have found that most “jerks” are extremely focused, blunt, and have low emotional IQs. This being said, I love interacting with them because I always know where I stand, and because they usually soften once you really get to know them.
    But, is it worth the effort? To me it is, once they are not willfully unkind, but rather just self-interested.

  9. Jim
    Jim says:

    One comment that applies to this and several other columns: The readers do not need to read about the writer’s marriage and its problems. Really! I’ll bet the husband likes it even less than we do.

  10. Scott M
    Scott M says:

    Networking is inherently superficial, except for the most extroverted, “people persons” among us. If it wasn’t, it would be called “Making Friends”. I distrust any article that attempts to make it seem otherwise.

    Here’s why:

    1. Networking IS about “data collection”. Because you automatically remember things about people who are your friends. But Networking isn’t about making friends, it’s about making contacts. So you have to memorize details about people you aren’t really interested in.

    2. Real courtship is about making personal friends. Networking is about making contacts. If you are courting contacts, then it’s just like trolling for sex; you want something, but you aren’t really interested in that person.

    3. Being shy or introverted really IS a detriment to networking, and you just can’t MAKE yourself get over it. It’s part of who you are. If you are introverted, and you’re gonna network, you’re gonna have to pretend to be someone else. Which is actually OK, because networking is inherently superficial anyway.

    I just want an article that admits that networking is somewhat superficial, where you pretend to be interested in someone personally, but are just interested in what that person can do for you.

  11. Peter
    Peter says:

    Ross

    I’d question how good your marriage actually is on two grounds. First, what’s the driver behind needing to tell the world how good it is? If it’s that good you wouldn’t be making the first point which, if I read it correctly, was that if you followed your heart you wife wouldn’t approve. Question is then, how much are you willing to personally sacrifice for the sake of someone else’s approval?

  12. Molly B.
    Molly B. says:

    Penelope, I’ve just read a few of your columns … and breezed through the comments. Oh boy. Thank you so much for continuing to write in the onslaught of so much judgemental ick being thrown your way. – Molly

Comments are closed.