The Truth About Networking

The thought of networking events makes me shudder. I picture rooms full of people with name tags and strained smiles clutching plastic cups of wine and repeating their “elevator pitches” over and over.

That’s not really networking. That’s speed-dating. Networking is something you do with people you know and trust. You could, in theory, develop a relationship with someone you meet at a networking (or speed-dating) event, but the odds are fairly slim. This is not to say that you shouldn’t attend networking events — it never hurts to meet new people — but you should keep your expectations low about the benefits of doing so.

I’ve worked in Seattle for 24 years now. Yes, I am that old. This means I have a pretty strong network in this area. Knowing a lot of people is good, but networking is useless without three important factors: trust, generosity, and friendship. People who like you and trust you will bend over backward to help you, because they know they would do the same for them.

This has been proven time and again for me. People I’ve worked with before want to work with me again, because they like and trust me. That’s a pretty large pool of people who will help me get hired if they can. It’s not magic, of course. Even with hundreds of good people who would have my back, there’s a certain amount of luck involved in actually landing the right job. Much like dating, the job has to be available at the same time I am.

I never thought I’d be recommending a talk on networking, but the video below is well worth taking the time to watch to the end. Joshua Klein does a brilliant job of explaining the growing relationship-based economy, and how networking is changing.