How do you react when you hear the word networking? Do you feel uncomfortable, roll your eyes, or even break out in a sweat? You’re not alone if the prospect of networking doesn’t make you jump for joy. Truth be known, most people don’t relish the idea of networking.
Truth also be known, networking remains the most effective way to get referred for jobs that aren’t advertised. According to Jobvite.com, 40% of hires come from referrals, twice the number than the next option, the company’s website. So networking seems like a no-brainer.
I’m not here to say you shouldn’t network. I’m here to say try networking in a different way. Join a buddy group.
Pros of Buddy Groups
Smaller and more intimate
Buddy groups generally number six—some smaller, others larger. In a smaller group, members keep track of each other, making it easier for the members to keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities that fit each other. This is not always possible with large networking groups, which consist of 20 to 80 people.
Large groups can also be intimidating, which leads me to my next benefit of buddy groups.
Ideal for introverts
Speaking as an introvert, I’m more comfortable in smaller group settings than large groups. The size of buddy groups makes it easier to know each member and develop deeper relationships, which is ideal for introverts.
This is not to say introverts will back away from large networking groups. If they attend larger groups, their goal is to talk to fewer people to have deeper conversations. Extraverts, on the other hand, enjoy “working the room.”
Members are held accountable
Buddy groups that gather on a regular basis are more likely to hold their members accountable for their job-search actions. If, for example, a member says during a meeting, that he will schedule four coffee meetings the following week, he will be questioned about scheduling those meetings the next time the group meets.
Keeping track of job seekers at large networking groups is extremely difficult. Often job seekers will come an go to large networking groups. You might see some members sporadically.
Meetings can be mobile
Unlike large networking groups which are held at the same place, at the same time; buddy groups can be held at different locations. Because buddy groups are usually held where its members prefer, there are more options. Perhaps the location is decided based on each members’ hometown, or the members’ choice of cafe, as examples.
On the other hand, buddy group member might prefer holding their meetings at the same location for consistency. I know of one buddy group that meets at the same restaurant before their large networking event.
Joining one requires an invitation
Buddy groups can be formed to include members who share similar interests and occupations. Software engineers, project managers, hardware engineers might create a skills share group, consisting of six to 10 people, who gather to work on a project.
Or the members of a buddy group might prefer a variety of occupations. As one job seeker said, “We would all be applying to the same jobs, and I think that would make it more competitive, when it should be supportive.”
Gets you out of the house
As inconsequential this may sound, getting out your house where you’ve been sitting in front of your computer for six hours a day, until it starts humming at you; it’s important for your state of mind.
This will be part of your routine. You’ll look forward to meeting with your buddies at a specific time, maybe a particular place–although as stated earlier, the location might change.
Some Cons of Buddy Groups
Although great in concept, buddy groups can have their drawbacks. After all, they are intimate groups that meet on a consistent basis. With consistency comes conflict.
Might become stagnant
One of buddy groups’ strengths, their consistent meetings, can be a weakness. Undoubtedly there will be times when the meeting is not as productive as the members would like.
I run a “job club” at an urban career center, and I will be the first to say that sometimes the meetings fall flat. Structure is important. But for structure to be successful, the activities must be of interest to the members of the group.
Members might not be the right fit
Like working in a team, some members don’t fit. This can happen with buddy groups, as well. A member or two might not pull their weight, dominate the conversations, be too negative.
I asked a member of a buddy group what the group would do in a case where a member is hurting the group. She said deadpan, “Ask them to leave.” It’s easier said than done, but it might come to this.
There are far more benefits than disadvantages of a buddy group. One I haven’t mentioned is the moral support job seekers gain from their buddy groups. I don’t encourage buddy groups be a platform for people to bemoan their situation, but there must be times when they can let out their frustrations.