networking

The 5 Biggest Myths About Networking

If you’re getting ready for graduation, or if you’ve already graduated but you’re looking for a new job, you probably know you need to spend a lot of time networking. But, do you really know what networking is and what it’s not?

During my teenage years, I was painfully shy, and I thought networking was a practice used only by the elite and powerful, a group I definitely did not feel part of.

What I learned was the opposite. Networking is for anyone and everyone. If you’re generous, reliable and willing to put in the effort needed to build relationships, you can be great at networking. This is true no matter where you’re from and no matter what your personality is.

Here are the 5 biggest myths about networking:

Myth #1: Networking is annoying to other people

How would you feel if someone sent you an email, told you she admired you, and asked for some of your advice on how she could be like you in the future? Would you get angry? Would you be annoyed?

Of course not. Here’s the truth: when done correctly and genuinely, networking is actually flattering to other people. This does not mean that everyone will welcome your requests to connect, but most people (especially successful people) love to share their success secrets and connect with other like-minded people.

Do your homework before meeting with anyone so that you can ask specific questions about their work, their goals, or their dreams for the future. You’ll immediately stand out from the “annoying” networker who just wants to talk about himself.

Myth #2: Networking is cheating

By networking with people in the sports marketing industry as a student in college, I landed a private interview with the Team President for the NBA’s Washington Wizards right before graduation. The team hired me for a full-time position one week later.

Yet when I interviewed for a full-time job with the franchise, they didn’t say, “Hmmm…You were recommended to us by one of our former senior executives? Well, in that case, there is no need to interview you. You’re hired!”

Instead, their thought process was, “You know one of our former senior executives, huh? In that case, we’ll take a look at your resume and give you a chance to come in for an interview to prove why we should hire you.”

Networking is not nepotism. You need to add value to other people and organizations or networking will get you nowhere. There is nothing unethical about engaging in networking to advance your career.

Myth #3: Networking is all about who you know

It drives me absolutely crazy when people say this because it cheapens the importance of presenting yourself the right way and building genuine relationships.

Here’s the truth: Networking is all about who likes you and who respects you. There is a HUGE difference between knowing someone (or having someone “know” you) and having someone like you and respect you.

Before working with you or referring you to someone else, a successful person is consciously or subconsciously asking himself, “Do I like and respect this person enough to put my reputation on the line by working with her or by introducing her to someone I trust?

If the answer is “no,” networking will get you nowhere. However, if the answer is “yes,” a young professional can usually get almost anyone to open his rolodex.

Myth #4: You should attend as many networking events as possible

All networking events are not created equal. Just like quantity of contacts is not as important as quality of contacts, quantity of networking events is not as important as quality of events.

In other words, going to one highly targeted networking event makes a lot more sense than going to 10 generic networking events. There is always value in meeting new people, but many networking events are actually a waste of time.

The best networking events are usually not called “networking events.” “Networking events” are usually just full of salespeople and desperate job-seekers. Instead, the best “networking events” are industry conferences or other events that successful, like-minded people in a specific niche or field will be attending for their own professional development.

Myth #5: Networking is only for extroverts

Your success with networking depends on your strategy, not your personality. In fact, being shy can actually be a networking advantage.

As someone who’s slightly introverted, I always go out of my way in networking situations to get other people to talk about themselves. Initially, I did this because I was uncomfortable being the center of attention.

However, I noticed something interesting. By focusing more on other people (instead of talking mainly about yourself), people end up liking you more and being more receptive to future collaborations.

Pete Leibman is the Founder of Dream Job Academy and the Author of I Got My Dream Job and So Can You: 7 Steps to Creating Your Ideal Career After College. His work has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN.

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17 comments

  1. Anonymous

    One other thing to add — particularly if you’re more of an introvert, it helps to be a little bit methodical about keeping in touch with your contacts over time (rather than letting them grow stale and forgotten). My own take on how to go about this is at http://modenomad.com/3lists.

  2. As a self proclaimed introvert myself, I find your last point to be especially effective. Getting other people to talk about themselves is really easy because they love it so much. As long as you ask thoughtful questions, even if you can barely get a word in edgewise, they’ll leave with a favorable impression of you. A much more favorable impression than if you talked nonstop about yourself then scanned the room for more important people while they were speaking.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with all 5, but with a special “AMEN” to #1. Networking is only annoying if you’re being annoying. If you’re tossing out business cards like they’re expiring … or you’re not listening to the person you’re trying to connect with because there’s someone else across the room that you want to catch … or you keep saying the word “networking” …. it’s annoying. But the act of meeting people is not annoying.

  4. Stoovenshannon

    Even if it is labeled a “Networking Event” and you can’t help yourself…you gotta go or disappoint someone who thinks you “need” this event to launch you in a new direction…plan for it like you are going to meet the most important people in the world. Get there early, very early and volunteer your energy to ensure a successful event by supporting the working stiffs some or one of whom just might be the lead person of the organization. If you bond with only that person and ultimately their network it will make time well spent. And show up at the end to tear down the tables, etc., with your new contact. Be transparent. Be intentional. Be valued. Be remarkable. Be remembered. I owe you a snazzy dinner for two (you and your significant other) if what I recommend here fails. That’s how confident I am you will win using Taste, Style, and Judgment to achieve Know Like & Trust in a single so-called “Networking Event” (Nee “Card Exchange” Ugh!).

  5. Great tips, thanks! I love the distinction you make between “who you know” and “who likes you”. The “who you know” myth always bugged me, and now I understand why. I’ll definitely spread the word on that one.

  6. Great article. I particularily liked #1 – first time I was contacted by someone wanting my advice I was so flattered and excited I wanted to send them a thank you note (but stopped myself long enough to wait for theirs first). I went out of my way to help because it was a learning and growing experience for me as well. Unless you are harrassing someone and being annoying (have experience with that, too) networking is great for both parties.

    I would amend #4 to state that even though not all events are cretated equal if you are new to networking and shy it might not be worst thing to go to everything for a while so you can get used to the environment and relax a bit. Then you should pick and choose for best opportunities.

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  11. For me , networking is a job. This is where I get my income to pay the bills, feed my dogs and everything. So, to earn a living, like other white and blue collar jobs, I have to love and treasure it.

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  13. “How would you feel if someone sent you an email, told you she admired you, and asked for some of your advice on how she could be like you in the future? Would you get angry? Would you be annoyed?”

    Yes I would: maybe not very annoyed because I get annoying emails all the time but I’d junk it unless she was offering to do something for me and so will most people. Flattery is not enough these days.

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  15. Sam

    I always wonder of the value of networking when such unfortunate and unjust obstacles have happened below:

    -According to #1, why on Earth would anybody turn someone down or blow someone off who is interested in seeking their advice or in connecting with interest? I encountered this few times hurtfully on LinkedIn after sending a message to a Senior Non-Profit employee with Nature Conservancy in Birmingham, AL mentioning how I admire his work, interested in his field and asked if I could seek his insights and guidance, but unfortunately he declined on LinkedIn which says, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not interested.” Similarly, there have been some people met at events or anywhere else who illogically say, “Sorry, I don’t give out my contact information to people I don’t know.” What is then the purpose of these events and connecting? Why not give someone a chance.

    Also, other unfortunate, hurtful outcomes encountered from doing good are having met certain people at service-projects where we are part of an AmeriCorps Alumni network, conversation is done with contact information exchanged, but the other person never responded back with any decency nor courtesy after reaching out to him and trying to help with he seeming to reply to others and connect with other fellow alumni. What is this and why does he have to practice unfair exclusion, rudeness and not follow up or acknowledge the person reaching out to him? Surely, he wouldn’t like if others did such to him when he is reaching out. This has happened with few other people.

    It is always said to keep up with everybody you have worked in the past and nourish the relationship, but it is the worst, illogical and unclear thing with no fairness when you and your boss have usually had a good relationship with even exchanges after leaving the same organization, but very unfortunately this person hasn’t responded to your last 4 or 5 Facebook messages or wall posts unlike before when he/she would respond. This is my case and gets me to the heart why I have to suffer this unfairly and illogically after I take the time to reach out and share links at times. I end up taking this personally. This situation has also happened with others sadly from my AmeriCorps service and don’t see why it should with such a social-minded mission together and when one party like me has gone out of the way to keep in touch with thought?

    Such unfair and illogical incidents haven’t happened with everybody thankfully, but has happened as a pattern with some people unexpectedly despite me being my best and it has affected my trust when trying to meet new people and nourish relationships. Why and how does it have to be like this when good is done from one party and with the law of karma and good? Why does one-sidedness in such an illogical way have to be done?

    Networking would be seen as beneficial if if the other person certainly responds back and a relationship is maintained forever as long we try. I swear to God that the other person especially with whom there has at least been a history and good responses before at least responds back with courtesy and acknowledgment with law of karma.

    Thanks!

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