I don’t mean to be so blunt, but it’s true! Keith Ferrazzi nails this once again in Never Eat Alone. His words are especially significant given that he is one of the most connected people in the world:
I have a confession to make. I’ve never been to a so-called “networking event” in my life.
If properly organized, these get-togethers in theory could work. Most, however, are for the desperate and uninformed. The average attendees are often unemployed and too quick to pass on their resumes to anyone with a free hand — usually the hand of someone else who is unemployed looking to pass on his resume.
Imagine a congregation of people with nothing in common except joblessness. That’s not exactly a recipe for facilitating close bonds.
The problem with “networking events” is that they are typically based on the “me first” model of networking, which we’ve refuted in the previous posts. If you are networking first of all for what you can get out of people, you’ve blown it. That’s not networking — that’s schmoozing.
Real networkings is first about the value you can bring to others. Certainly, your own needs do matter, and it is right and legitimate to seek help from your network (in fact, it is essential and, when understood rightly, actually another way of helping). The problem is when your own needs become your first priority, when networking is abstracted from mutual interest, and when networking is abstracted from what you have to offer without thought of return.
That’s what’s wrong with most networking events. They are artificial and canned. But when you are interested first in other people for their own sake, then you don’t need networking events. You will naturally encounter people at places of common interest, such as conferences and events, which are the best places to “network” (= meet people!) in the right way.