In 2012 the Harvard Business Review published an article titled ‘Never Say No to Networking’, however in 7 years, times and opinions have changed significantly and their advice to “commit to going to 1 industry-related event for a week, then 3, then 8” is no longer feasible nor rational.
With the rise of social media sites such as LinkedIn, we have all managed to grow our networks to include those otherwise out of reach, however there are those who question the real value in our connections. Lulu Xiao of Career Contessa puts this succinctly when she writes, “what’s the point of knowing 500 people and only feeling comfortable reaching out to 3 of them?”. Her comments come down to the old adage of quality over quantity and raise vital questions around simply grasping onto numbers.
Accepting all requests to connect on LinkedIn will clog up your feed with irrelevant content, an effect which is also relevant to real life networking. Tagwalk CEO and Founder, Alexandra Van Houtte advises that you “do not ask for advice from everyone who crosses your path, it will confuse you. You need a very close-knit circle of trustworthy people and that’s enough.” In order to achieve this, doing your research is vital and finding an initial mentor could be a great first step towards finding your group.
People in positions of power could be receiving dozens of requests for advice and networking opportunities each week, meaning that unless you’ve thoroughly thought out and presented your case a rambling network request could hurt your cause rather than help it.
When it comes to networking events, despite their popularity, Derek Coburn, CEO/Co-Founder of Cadre says they might not offer you a good return on your investment of time or money. With the larger events often filled with people at similar levels, attending in the hope of progression doesn’t always prove fruitful. In fact, Van Houtte says that being too overzealous with networking almost cost her the business.
“I used to accept all interviews, all conferences, all opportunities and then I realized I was being so inefficient, I would probably end up failing my business.”
Her comments cement the fact that in a world that is becoming oversaturated with ‘networking opportunities’, we should all become a little pickier. Stick to events that center upon your chosen field, do your research regarding who will be there, and most importantly don’t treat your business cards like confetti, but rather take 10 and choose carefully who’d you’d like to be in your close-knit circle.