Don’t Let One Unsuccessful Networking Experience Be a Negative Teaching Moment

Experiences can be positive or negative teaching moments based how you look at them. A vivid experience in my life that stays with me to this day was when my father told me on one occasion not to brag. From then on I stopped bragging; this experience taught me humility.

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Another experience in my life was when I didn’t make it to the “Big Ball” as a high school teacher. Back then if you successfully survived your third year, you earned tenure. I gave up on teaching and often wish I hadn’t. This was a negative teaching moment.

There are times when job seekers give up, throw in the towel, after one unsuccessful networking experience. These times epitomize negative teaching moments.

Case in point was a job seeker who I met at one networking event I led. He looked discouraged as he was putting on his jacket on the way out.

I asked him how the event had gone. He told me that it hadn’t gone well; didn’t get anything out of it he told me. I should have done him a solid by telling him that one unsuccessful networking event shouldn’t deter him.

Come back again and again and again. You shouldn’t expect immediate gratification. Alas, I let him walk away to never return for another networking event. He saw this as an unsatisfying experience, a negative teaching moment.

It’s where you network that forms your experiences

Where job seekers network can form their positive and negative experiences. Many are under the impression that networking only consists of attending formal events where large groups of other job seekers gather to share advice and seek opportunities.

The atmosphere of large networking events caters more toward extravated types who thrive on the excitement of entering a church hall or library and seeing 50 or more people. This represents more opportunities for them.

Another benefit of larger networking groups is that guest speakers motivate the attendees by talking about various aspects of the job search. Once a month at the job club I conduct I’ll have guest speakers share their knowledgeable of topics like interviewing, networking, resume writing, LinkedIn, etc.

Read this article on proper and improper networking techniques.

However, large networking groups don’t garner the best ROI for everyone. This is particularly true for those who prefer introversion. To Introverts, a positive experience is a smaller, more intimate setting, where they can have in-depth conversations.

Small networking groups like Meet-Ups, dinner parties, buddy groups, etc. are more intimate and slower in pace. This allows members to talk at greater length and develop deeper relationships.

Buddy groups, in particular, can be positive experiences because members keep each other accountable for their search. Leaders of the groups will issue assignments such as updating their resumes, creating networking documents, practicing answering tough interview questions, etc.

Read this article on buddy groups.

Regardless of the size or purpose of the networking group, job seekers shouldn’t unsuccessful event prevent you from attending other events. Their preference might be large, formal events, or it might be smaller ones.

Networking is ongoing

What many job seekers fail to realize is that the networking process continues after they’ve applied for a position via the traditional process. They send their resume to a company and wait by the phone (not literally) for employers to call.

Employers don’t call. Yet, job seekers continue on the same path and suffer the same negative experiences. These are teaching moments that discourages them.

Here’s a scenario of a positive teaching moment. After applying online for a position, a job seeker contacts people with whom she’s worked in some capacity and tells them that she’s applied for a position. Do any of her networking contacts know someone in the department to which she’s applied?

One person does and provides valuable contact information, which is not privy to other candidates. Wisely she asks if she can mention her networking contact as a reference in the email she sends to the contact.

This is a form of networking that too many job seekers overlook. Their contacts can be a valuable resource after applying for a position. In many cases job seekers secure their positions by following through.

Job seekers might be successful, or not, at a networking event. If they’re not successful, they shouldn’t let one experience be a negative teaching moment. Rather, they should continue to network or find a networking style that works for them.


This article was inspired by Brian Ahearn, who recently wrote Is Experience Really the Best Teacher?

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