If you’re in the business of business, you’ve probably been knocked on the head at least a thousand times about how networking is vital for your career. Well, I’ve got bad news: you’ve been lied to. Networking doesn’t work.
Well, networking in a traditional sense at least. The times of informational interviews and coffee chats are well on their way out, now being replaced by a much more organic form of communication. But before I talk about your modern alternatives, let me better elaborate on why I think the old world is kaputt.
The first problem with networking is that it’s superficial. The conversations themselves really aren’t worth your time, most of the time. Especially if you’re a college student, you probably don’t have anything to offer someone other than a few stupid questions and a minor ego boost. When I wrote about communication on Apalla, I wrote that people like to feel respected. Respect means respecting their time — if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it!
The second problem with networking is that it’s repetitive. Not only is the actual process of setting up a coffee date or a phone call monotonous, but if you do it enough times you’ll begin to realize that people sort of say the same things over and over again. Take the Tim Ferriss podcast — while the advice is fantastic, you only have to watch 6 or 7 of them to realize that everyone has pretty much the same keys to success. Hell, Tim himself wrote two books on this idea. Now, the people on this podcast are on the top of their game — how quality do you think the advice you’ll get from random people in your network is?
And finally, the third problem with networking is that it’s time consuming. You’re spending lord knows how many hours scheduling the damn things in the first place, which are on average 30-minute fixed chunks of your time. This is time that can be much better spent creating, whether it be code, writing, art, design — whatever type of creator you are. You should be spending this time getting money and leads in the door, not by asking some entrepreneur how they made it in their industry (spoiler alert: it’s about the same as everyone else).
Alright, so enough of the negatives. What should you be doing instead?
Well, as it turns out, I do have good news for you: the new world form of networking is even easier than the old world form. It involves taking a combined route when getting to know other people — meeting and creating, intertwined. In this case, you don’t have to worry about whether things are time consuming because it is tied to the content you’re producing regardless. Similarly, it is no longer superficial nor repetitive since the connections are made naturally over time.
So, here’s some examples of new world networking techniques:
Create content. Duh! Setting up things like blogs, social media accounts, or Youtube channels with the intention of making insightful content is what new world networking is all about. As you share your content, meet other people who are interested in what you are working on. Build these relationships, and you’ll be well on your way to building meaningful connections without the need for an informational interview.
Be on other people’s content. I’m thinking podcast guest appearances, guest blogging, et cetera. You might not have requests for yourself coming in everyday when you first start out, but you can certainly ask. Notice the value differential between “I want to talk to you to learn about your career path and how to get this prestigious job” versus “I want to write some high quality content on your blog to drive in viewers”. Same concept, very different value prop!
However, just because things are “new world” doesn’t mean that it strictly has to do with new age stuff like social media and technology. There’s plenty of traditional tasks that fit this bucket:
Join groups you’re passionate about. Say you’re a Youtuber focusing on the latest news in the RTS games genre. Well, you’ll have to join RTS-related news groups to understand what content to make anyway. Why not be involved in this community, and meet people in it? You could end up meeting the people who make these RTS games, and have them give you exclusive content. Just make sure you’re giving something back to the community in return.
Work within companies. This is absolutely the easiest way to network. Work for people in a company, and do a good job. If you do a good job, they like you. Capitalize on that liking, and build a relationship out of it. Easy as cake!
Take others networking requests. Just because you’re no longer in the game of old world networking, doesn’t mean you should shun everyone who still is. Listen, here’s the best advice I will give you on networking out of all of this: you should always respond to people who are asking to network with you in good faith. Whether it be a LinkedIn message or a 15 minute phone call, (provided you aren’t outrageously busy) you should always accept. You never know where these things can lead, and it requires very little work on your part in comparison to the person who’s asking. And hell, maybe you can use that chance to spread the gospel of new world networking!
I hope this guide helped. As a person who was always incredibly annoyed with old world networking, I felt incredibly relieved to know that this format works just as well. I hope that relief spreads to you.