Career Development Strategies E071 Networking Strategies For Job Hunters: Horizontal vs Vertical Networking

September 27th 2021

Sometimes less is more… What are the effective networking strategies for job hunters?

There are two main types of networking strategies. Namely, you can either network horizontally or vertically. A horizontal networking strategy means increasing the width of your network by gaining several (casual) professional contacts. These are often people whom you only met once. They recognize your name and expertise, yet, you haven’t gone through any projects together and so they don’t know how it feels to work with you in practice.

Please find also our article that elaborates on this topic: https://ontologyofvalue.com/make-strategic-networking-a-part-of-your-career-development-plan-the-depth-vs-the-width-of-your-network/ 

00:00 Let me tell you a brief story. When I was at the end of my PhD contract, I didn’t worry at all. Why? Because I had all these contacts. I had so many people in my network that I met in conferences. I had collaborators from my research projects. I had so many friends in grad school that I used to go to Friday drinks with. I was surrounded by so many people, why would I worry?

00:26 After my contract expired, I did not worry about anything. I took a gap year, I did projects that I truly enjoyed, I volunteered, I even started my own charity. Then at some point, I started looking around for jobs and some career options. And then, I discovered that even though I asked many people about opportunities and whether or not they know, someone who knows someone, who might have an interesting job for a person like me, there was no response.

00:55 There was no opportunity for me, all the doors were closed; there was nothing in my network. And then I realized, maybe I networked in a wrong way. Because as it turns out, there is more than one networking strategy. And this is what we are going to talk about today.

01:26 As it turns out, there are two main types of networking strategies. The first type is vertical networking or networking in-depth. It means that you aim to create deep bonds with people close to you. British anthropologist Robin Dunbar discovered in his research work in sociology, we are physically incapable of creating more than around 150 close contacts with people. And that’s why this in-depth network is quite limited in scope.

01:57 There are only so many people we can keep in touch with and make sure that we rely on each other, and trust each other, and know each other in depth. The second type of network is horizontal network or flat network. This network incorporates all our casual contacts. These are people who recognize our name, recognize our face, know what we do.

02:20 Perhaps we talked to them once on the conference or met them on the train, or we chatted casually a few times. But we don’t associate these people with friends to an extent. They are not even our acquaintances. They are just people out there who we recognize and who recognize us.

02:41 When is vertical networking strategy actually useful? In-depth networking strategy is useful when you need help with finding a job or you seek personal recommendations. It’s useful when you have a difficult living situation and you need some help. For instance, you need to crash it someone’s home call for a few weeks, or you need to borrow money from someone. Or you need to open up and talk about your deepest darkest secrets. Or you just need to open up and complain to someone. Or you need to start a business partnership, which is pretty much like a marriage.

03:16 The horizontal network is mostly useful for searching for people and things. For instance, if you need to find the right people, for instance, for your project, like collaborators or subcontractors when you need to outsource some part of your work. When you need to find information. For instance, learn some news about the upcoming developments in your field. Maybe you also look for inspiration for new interesting concepts and ideas.

03:44 Or you need to create (build) an impact and gain outreach for your work. Finding an audience for your project. And now comes the question for 100 points, which type of network is more useful when it comes to job search and career advancement? Well, I took a wrong bet. That’s why I couldn’t find a job after my PhD. As most people think I also like to think that horizontal network and building an audience, building outreach and gaining as many contacts as possible, is the key to find a job and realize your professional development plan.

04:14 And indeed, it’s useful to gain information. What happens when you are asking someone to recommend you for jobs and ask in their network, perhaps ask their own boss or as their closest colleagues for potential opportunities for you? Well, what happens is that because in fact you asked them to get out of their comfort zone for you, that’s what it really means. How many people do you know who would get out of their comfort zone and risk their own name and risk that trust they’ve built over the years to ask for jobs for you? That’s the real question.

04:47 And we all know these people that are introverted and that almost have nobody at all, just a few close people around them. Yet somehow, they always find another job and then other jobs and another job. And that’s the exact reason, they have good in-depth network. They know just a few people but they know the right people and they know people who would secure jobs for them.

05:11 It’s not the horizontal, but the in-depth vertical network that decides your success in job search in the job market. If you want to feel safer about your future job opportunities and professional development, you have to take care and cater, and hone your in-depth vertical network.

05:29 And the rules might depend on the working environment where you work. For instance, in business, these casual horizontal contacts can lead you far. Because you are in constant search for new ideas, new people, new tools, not personal but rather meritorious help. Versus for instance, in academia, the vertical network is much more important because you just need to find one more boss.

05:53 And then after that, you just need to find one more boss, etc. You have to first observe. And once you know what type of network you need, you have to find time for building it over the years. Of course, it will not be built overnight, you have to find time in your busy schedule for it. As a rule of thumb, the horizontal network can be built by allocating little slots every single day.

06:17 For instance, talking for social media, emailing people, showing people interest, discussing online or in person in the corridor. A lot of attention tokens that you have to spread across the board. And you can allocate like just a tiny slot for it. Or you can just do it in breaks between the most important tasks. Versus the vertical network, it needs much more time and attention. But again, it’s worth it.

06:45 I would strongly advise you to take action and take care of your in-depth vertical network. My personal strategy is to allocate time during my week, but it has to be blocks of time, preferably the whole day. And if not, then at least the whole afternoon or the whole evening when you can get in-depth into an in-depth conversation with someone. That’s the only way of building bonds. Building bonds always needs time.

07:12 And it’s more about, how much time you spend with someone than what you do. You might be just watching a movie, you might be having a small dog, or just taking a walk in the park. It doesn’t matter what you do. It just matters that you find time for someone. And lastly, remember that building a network works like a compound interest. The amount of time and effort you put into it will bring your profits over the years.

07:36 And every single decision you ever making in life is a sort of investment. You either invest your time or you invest your money. Make sure that it’s a good investment that will lead to long lasting improvements in your life (including professional development) and also someone else’s life. Hey, it’s not only about you, you also contribute to other people’s lives and make their lives better. Happy networking, I hope you don’t make my mistakes.

And if you also have life hacks about networking strategies, please post them below or reach out to us vi our contact form. I will be happy to learn something new about efficient networking strategies! Have a great day everyone.

07:36 You will meet people who will meet more people, who will mention about you. If you’re caring; if you can pick up a phone and ask, ‘How are you doing?’ Especially in a crisis, especially in hard times. If you’re a person who always remembers and makes active effort, it will be remembered. It will bring your profits in so many different ways. It will bring you a sense of safety. For more good reasons to work out networking strategies and network throughout your professional life, please check out our article “10 Good Reasons To Treat Networking as a Mindset.”

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2022, July 27th). Career Development Strategies E071 Networking Strategies For Job Hunters: Horizontal vs Vertical Networking? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/career-development-strategies-e071-networking-strategies-for-job-hunters-horizontal-vs-vertical-networking/

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