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Linked in, zoned out



Day two in Berlin and the rain is pouring down. I had a day off today when I had hoped to see a few of the sights and absorb some of the culture.  I still got to see the sites but all I absorbed was first grade German rainwater.  I exaggerate of course and I would thoroughly recommend Berlin to anyone who has never been.  Just the thought of the wall is enough to send me into deep introspection.

But before I have a chance to rest on my intellectual laurels, I am going head first into 72 hours of almost non-stop meetings and schmoozing.  I’m not particularly good at schmoozing, I’m somewhat of an introvert and the constant tittle-tattle of small talk doesn’t come easy to me.  I guess I’m not alone here.  But if you read all the experts out there and the fervent twitterers you’d believe that if you aren’t constantly networking then you are somehow a loser waiting to happen,an incomplete human…..a business failure.

Personally, I don’t have a network.  But, I do have relationships.

Take two scenarios.  The weekend before last I spent the weekend with complete strangers.  I did so because in some way or another I had already made contact with most of the people attending, I was interested in them and I wanted to find out more about them.  I wanted to have contact and build relationships.  Then, last week I was due to attend a swanky dinner with a number of high-profile people from the business world.  I really couldn’t be bothered and pulled out.

The difference for me was that with the first lot of people there was nothing to be gained.  We were meeting to get to know one another.  The second lot of people all had a vested interest in being there.  They wanted to make contacts to further their own careers or businesses.  I don’t do business with people who are part of my “network”, I do business with people with whom I have a relationship.

Those experts out there telling you and I to network, in most cases they have something to sell. To sell to you. So of course they want everyone to get out there and network. Take a tip from me.  Focus on quality not quantity. You don’t need to attend pointless, heartless events aimed to expose you to the hyenas.  You do not to spend time with people you like, you trust and you get along with.  It may not give you or them any benefit in the short-term, but the relationships will be meaningful, longer term and more likely to bear fruit.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Doug Shaw permalink
    09/14/2010 15:35

    Yep, relationships rock. I attended an RSA networking evening recently. Hadn’t been before and I found it tough. I don’t like this stand there and tell everyone who you are and what you do in one minute guff. There were over thirty of us so it took ages, I forgot everyone’s names, and of course, fluffed my lines. I did remember to say something about bicycles and guitars, so maybe it wasn’t all bad? I’ve offered to facilitate the next one of these. It’s going to be different. Haven’t figured how yet, and maybe afterwards I’ll be asked to resign? But it’s going to be different.

    You’ve reminded me that in a previous life I was asked to give a talk about networking to a group of grads and fast trackers. Even then I didn’t want to do the “normal” thing and so I asked a lot of friends for advice. I got lots, and a lot of it you’ve summed up well in your post. Here’s something I took with me from that learning and use it to this day. It’s from a friend of mine, Jonathan Wilson.

    “May I suggest the best single way to enjoy networking is be genuinely interested rather than feeling you have to be interesting. Most networking events are full of people trying to be interesting and they all are, but not always in the way they think!

    There is a real value in networking too. It can help organisations stay together and communities to form. Very few people achieve very much by staying at home watching TV. Those people who have been successful often modestly say that they were “just lucky in the right place at the right time”, but quick inspection shows that they were in a lot of places a lot of the time.

    The point is that you should not do networking just to make yourself successful, but if you do like people, find conversation interesting and put in enough energy to make things happen, you will tend to get known for positive things. You will come into more people’s minds when they are thinking of doing something and wondering who to do it with. That is how good people tend to get on.”

  2. 09/14/2010 17:59

    Very true. There’s a world of difference between actually knowing someone, and merely knowing of someone.

  3. 09/16/2010 08:10

    Spot on Mr HRD; all about quality, all about relationships. That’s one of the reasons your appearance in that Secret field in Devon was so intriguing. How do you build relationships while remaining anonymous? I’m still thinking on some aspects of it and there may yet be another #socreccamp post to come. In the meantime, I wrote this one a while ago, as a result of a chance meeting with someone else – who also happened to be in that field! It’s not just a small world, it’s bloody minute sometimes!

  4. 09/16/2010 10:41

    I think human nature helps us to identify the ‘networkers’ who are after something from the ‘networkers’ who are quite genuine. Interesting article as I don’t see myself as a gregarious out there mingling type, although as a recruiter of 14 years you would think I would have to be. I’m not, I just build as I go and thankfully must be doing something right as I have a great deal of good relationships.
    Enjoyed the blog.

  5. 09/17/2010 12:51

    Isn’t it also partly the difference between what we’re doing with connectinghr – eg the unconference – and traditional events? (could be one reason why a lot of the people attending the unconference are the same ones you went camping with too!).


  6. Owen Adams permalink
    09/17/2010 12:51

    Couldn’t agree more. The current fad for networking bores the pants off me – and it is a lazy networker who responds by telling me that if I don’t network I’m somehow a loser. I’ve done the working for a big corporation and the working for a small local council, and a range of organisations in between and in none of them did I network.

    But I did build relationships. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Regardless of their success, however, they were all real, and helped me deliver in my role, rather than make me feel good about myself. Which I get from delivering in my role anyway.

  7. 09/20/2010 09:44

    @Doug Shaw – Couldn’t agree more that it is about being genuinely interested in people. I somehow feel these events create an unnatural atmosphere that causes people not to show their real selves.

    @Stephen O’Donnell – I think #socreccamp went someway to demonstrating that don’t you think?

    @James Mayes – Of course you hit it on the head with that conundrum. But I think as Stephen wrote on his blog, by not knowing, sometimes you get to know. Or words to that effect! 🙂

    @paul – Thanks for commenting. I guess I would argue, from what you have said, that you are epitome of my argument. Someone who gets on through relationships and not necessarily through networks.

    @Jon Ingham – A shameless but most welcome plug sir! 🙂 Although you’re right, I think these events draw a different group of people.

    @Owen Adams – I love that comment. Can I bottle it and give it away free to every young grad making their way into the world of work? Thanks for taking the time.


  1. Pick of the Blogs – My Hell is Other People | executive recruiter online

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