Can we please stop wasting our time on social media and local events, trying to network? It all too often feels like wasting time pure bullshit. (Please excuse my French.) With the increasing awareness of the importance of a personal brand and having a community (also known as a tribe), everyone seems to be trying really hard to get better at networking. Working as a freelancer in PR and communications, it feels like a necessary evil that I have to fend off on a regular basis.
Perhaps many can argue that it’s my extreme introversion, along with the pitiful inability to endure small talk that is creating this aversion against networking. Honestly, I just think networking is pure bull and a waste of time.
NETWORKING IN VAIN
If you google network (the root word for networking), you get the definition:
interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.
The very definition makes it sound so insincere. As if the very objective of the act is to get something some someone. So let’s pause and think about that for a second. Read the definition again and really think about it because the definition itself can explain why most networking efforts fail.
You see, if everyone attends a networking event–an event with the sole purpose of having people exchange information and develop contact, especially to further one’s career–most people go in there with the mindset that they will gain something for themselves. There lies the problem with traditional networking.
I am not against meeting people and making new and genuine connections. Au contraire mon frere! It’s not networking per se that I have a problem with, rather the lazy and self-centred connotation that it comes with. So instead, invest your efforts in making real connections, no fragile networks.
Expertise, not business cards. Looking for new clients? Hand out less business cards and focus your energy on helping others with your expertise. Sadly, being human makes all of us predisposed to self-interest. (Notice on social media how everyone seems to be talking, while nobody pauses to listen or answer anyone else’s questions?) Helping others by lending them your expertise instantly helps you stand out. You’ll have a higher chance of being remembered.
Quality, not quantity. It’s not about the thousands of acquaintances, followers, subscribers, likes, shares or fans but the quality of the connections we make. Ten people who believe in my skills strongly enough to hire me for a job is much more valuable than a couple hundred people I could’ve handed my business card to (and never hear from again).
At the end of the day, people generally prefer to do business with people they know and trust. That trust is gained by being helpful and making a real effort to connect. I can’t speak for everyone, but I for one, can sense when people are talking to me for the sole purpose of bullshitting (also known as networking).