My Big Fat Problem With Networking Events
“Networking.” That buzzword that we have been told over and over and over again as the one key to success. I’ve been told countless times that it isn’t about what you know, but who you know.
But, how do you get those connections? According to nearly everyone, via networking. And I’d like to take a moment to share, that I think networking is bullshit.
From the moment someone explained networking to me, I became anxious. The whole thing felt greedy, fake and superficial. I was a bit wary that the number one key to success seemed so foreign and uncomfortable to me. But I gave the whole networking event thing a shot, and it played out something like this…
You walk into a networking function. Pick up some finger food and then slap on some fake confidence and mosey over to some official looking professionals.
I don’t have a career yet. I don’t have much currency to offer these professionals. I’m supposed to sell myself to these people under the guise of casual conversation and friendship. Then I’ll anxiously wait to see at the end of the night if I leave with their business card and a promise of a business connection or if I have to walk home in pointy heels, head hung low at my failure.
Glasses of punch and small talk just can’t hide what that whole interaction was all about– “like me enough to help me out.” The relationship is solely based on favors, and that makes me feel anxious and slimy.
One professional even confessed to me that she felt like networking was a waste of time. Instead of putting time into her actual business and personal relationships, she spent hours engaged in small talk with strangers at stuffy events, only to never talk to the people again or to have awkward coffee dates about how to help each other out.
As she put it,”It feels a lot like speed dating with people who are trying to ‘get something’ for one another. The most valuable relationships I’ve made have come from friendships first.”
So here is what I think matters. Just because I have sworn off swanky networking events doesn’t mean I think connections are useless. I think it’s the type of relationship that matters and the intention behind it.
I prefer to focus my time and energy on my deep relationships. I strive to make genuine connections with others for the sake of the joy, camaraderie, and inspiration these relationships give me. When I reach out to someone, I’m doing so because I like the person and I want nothing more than to spend time with them. I don’t seek job promotions or career-changing connections in my social time.
I’d much rather build my career and life through deep friendships and warm introductions through developed relationships. I can still build a network of beautiful, successful friends and supportive relationships through college, work, clubs, friends of friends, hobbies and more. I’ll surround myself with powerful friendships and bet that they will push me to my potential and offer insights and connections, even if they aren’t in my field, out of their natural interest in my well-being.
I won’t let the American “get ahead” mentality bleed into my social life and poison genuine relationships. I don’t want conversations that are always tinged with a taste of unauthentic, self-serving motives.
I want my relationship currency to be genuine friendship and likeness, not contact exchanges. I want to give my career focus 100% to my work, not to cocktail networking events. I’ll talk to people because I like them and if I pop in their head down the line for an open position or introduce me to my future boss, hey I’m not complaining.
Photo By Amelia Kramer
Instagram: @amelia_kramercareer advicenetworkingprofessional development