How to waste your time on networking

How to waste your time on networking

“Become a good networker and you will be successful”. This has been a popular mantra for years as managers have almost religiously preached that networking is good and more networking is even better. In reality, many web and intranet professionals have found that starting networking right away can be difficult. At worst, and as you may have experienced, networking can be a complete waste of time.

While some senior managers belong to an old boy network or go to an annual meeting in Davos that happen to work well for them personally, their tireless nagging about the wonders of becoming better and more active networkers has often been fairly tiresome and difficult to realise for staff. Consequently, many are tired of wasting time, often outside normal business hours, networking with people doing something completely unrelated to their own field and finding that it rarely leads anywhere.

When networking is not the answer

I’m a strong believer in networking, the value of a peer network and digital networks, in particular LinkedIn. Unfortunately the wonders of networking has been oversold as the answer to all prayers. Networking may indeed help you in your daily job; it could even land you the job of your dreams, but it is not going to do it without effort from your side. Networking may play a role in getting you promoted, although if you under-perform, networking in itself is unlikely to save your position.

When trying to address a specific challenge, e.g. selecting a new vendor, you can hear best practices as well as horror stories from your network. You can also obtain useful recommendations. Still, you are left to make the key decisions yourself. Strong internal and external networks can help you throughout most processes, although you are the one who has to do the actual work and live with the consequences.

Networking can steal valuable time

If you enjoy meeting people, networking can quickly turn into a time robber. It takes time to find relevant peers and even more time to get organized. With a full-time job, how are you going to find the additional time required to get the right people together, build an agenda, find an external speaker with something relevant, useful and inspirational to say, review slides in advance and handle all the practicalities like lunch and coffee?

If you decide to take the route and sign up for one of the many networking events being offered everywhere on any day of the week, you will meet people on different stages of their career, often without a shared goal. Travelling to these circus-like events costs time and so the disappointment is bigger when the outcome does not meet expectations.

If you are more comfortable in front of Outlook or a browser, you will easily spend too much time sending messages and emails. It might be more productive to pick up the phone, break the ice and build a relationship, but whom do you call in the first place? Where does one start? You probably find yourself iterating over perfecting your not-so-perfect digital brand (e.g. LinkedIn profile, blog bio, Google search results for your own name, dare I say Plaxo?), instead of actually getting work done? Again, this all takes valuable time.

When it comes to networking act like the CEO

Few successful CEO’s turn up unprepared at meetings. Also, CEO’s tend to have a goal in mind when they interact with business contacts. The goal may be financial, while more often it will be to get an information advantage or additional valuable introductions.

My advice is that you act like a CEO when it comes to networking. This means preparing, being selective and openly talking about your goals when it comes to networking.

There are many different types of networking events: J. Boye groups is just one option. No matter what you choose, consider carefully how you spend your time.

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