Traditional Networking: A Blessing Or A Curse For Your Job Search?

Can traditional networking actually damage your career?

The old adage was: When you lose a job, you tell everyone.  You share that you are back in the market with everyone that you know in all industries. As the expression goes with traditional networking, “You are only one step away from someone who can introduce you to the right someone that can get you a new position.”  I personally believe going this route hurts your opportunity to get a better position.  Today’s blog is going to bolster my argument (I hope) in your mind, especially if you are a believer of the above. Telling too many people will hurt your position. Why do I say that?

If You’ve Been Fired For Cause…

First, if you are fired, the more people that know you have been discharged, especially for cause, the harder it’s going to be to contain that information and spin it in a more positive light. Therefore, traditional networking is tricky. Depending on the situation, recruiters are not going to work with you if you have been fired for cause. Their job is not only to find you a new position; but, if you are working with a recruiter, that has a reputation of protecting their client, the hiring firm, should not want to work with you.  A transactional-based recruiter will since they do not care if they burn a bridge. However, a truly professional relational recruiter will shun you. In that case, telling the world if your explanation cannot be plausibly spun may be the best “play” for you. If you have been let go for other than cause, the more people that know you are looking, the harder your chances of procuring a good spot for your next position.

Exclusivity Is Valuable 

Now let’s assume you have not been discharged. In a traditional networking scenario, telling your network that you are actively looking for a position is harmful for the following reason.  Once it is known that you are open to new positions, your name is going to get out. When a recruiter talks to their coveted client, the hiring firm, and they are then told they know you are in the marketplace, your perceived value is diminished.  Recruiting firms want that exclusive with you.  They want to feel that they are getting someone that everyone wants, but no one knows now they are looking.  That is why in my opportunistic approach you are only introduced to one firm at a time.  If all is going well, no other firm will know of your desire to make a move.  If your resume is even circulated, your value goes down.  There are recruiters out there that once they know you are looking will circulate your name or your resume to all of their clients. They will not take a scientifically targeted approach to your job search.

In Traditional Networking Even A Whisper Can Haunt Your Current Deals

Another reason the traditional networking model does not work is that your competition will find out that you are looking. They can take advantage of that information when they are putting together proposals or even in oral interviews if it gets down to that.  Sharing that you may not be at the firm when the deal comes to fruition or to the market could hurt your opportunity to secure deals.  Many times, people will let others know they are “thinking” of making a move and they never make the move. However, because that knowledge is out there, you start to secure fewer deals being won, and you wonder why that is happening.  It’s happening because the marketplace knows you are thinking about making a move, and they are uncomfortable with that fact. This is especially true for municipal advisors when they are making their final recommendations.

So, Now What? 

If traditional networking is not the answer, what is?  It’s finding a recruiter. Not just any recruiter, but one that you can trust will look after your best interest. A recruiter that will not share with anyone other than their trusted client that you are willing to engage in conversations, quietly of course.  If my approach sounds like the right one for you, please reach out for a confidential conversation.  Whether you are thinking of leaving or your firm has given you notice to start looking around (as many firms are now doing before actually reducing their headcount), it may be worthwhile to have that confidential conversation.


If you would like to discuss your options, please reach out for a confidential conversation at 760-477-1284 or email at [email protected]. He can also be reached on LinkedIn. Harlan publishes a blog every Thursday here. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here, which is a compilation of our weekly blogs, so you never miss one. You can find our listing in the “supplier and services” section of the Red Book under the title of “executive recruiting.”

About Harlan Friedman, JD & Founding Member, H. Friedman Search LLC. Harlan is a thirty-year veteran Public Finance Banker turned recruiter who specializes in the placement of all levels Public Finance Bankers, Healthcare Bankers, Municipal Advisors, Compliance Officers, Issuers, and Bond Counsels.