With 70 to 80 percent of jobs being filled either internally or through referrals, according to NPR, professional networking — along with death and taxes — has become one of life’s most dreaded inevitabilities. For many of us, just the idea of spending an evening glad-handing a crowded room of strangers is enough to awaken long-since-suppressed painful memories of middle school dances. According to William Duggan’s new book, The Seventh Sense, however, that might be because most people approach networking all wrong.
For most of us, professional networking is all about finding a job, but according to Duggan, networking can be an opportunity to answer the most important question any of us will face: “what should I do with my life?”
In his book, Duggan relates the possibly apocryphal, though often cited story of Thomas Edison’s reply to a frustrated colleague’s dismay over their repeated failures. “I have not failed,” Edison said. “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” According to Duggan, this is the way most of us approach networking, as a numbers game. Knowing that the odds of randomly connecting with the right person are low, we try to meet as many people as possible hoping to find the one connection that works. This turns networking into a long, hard, and largely fruitless slog. “If you see networking as a ‘numbers game,’” Duggan writes, “the raw truth is that the numbers are stacked up against you.”
In place of the standard approach to professional networking, Duggan recommends what he calls “idea networking.” Duggan’s approach to networking is based on an obvious — if occasionally difficult to swallow — observation: most people just aren’t that interested in your job search.