Networking is dead. This was the title of an article I read in the Times at the weekend. This was the opinion of Rich Stromback; who is an uber well connected person. Here’s the article.
The article is quite hard hitting: stop bothering about networking and get on with your work! The opinion is from someone who is really well connected socially and business wise. He recommended:
- Stop worrying about first impressions. You will build up respect from your colleagues if you do a good job.
- Don’t try to look like everyone else; individuality is a positive.
- Stop networking: people don’t want to have inane “Networking” style conversations, but proper ones.
- Move away from main business centres such as London and New York “and live apart from the fray”.
One could argue that Rich Stromback is already incredibly well connected and doesn’t need to raise his profile. He has the invaluable connections and is an established public figure. It doesn’t matter if he isn’t ‘visible’ at events and doesn’t have to make new connections to further his career. Also, others aren’t going think badly of you, if you don’t dress according to expected dress codes. A young ambitious individual’s profile will possibly be damaged if he wears the wrong type of shirt or shoes in certain industries. This isn’t just professional industries: looking at the hipster crowd in the ‘Creative’ industries of high tech, they have their own dress code and you need to conform! As an aside, a ‘Hip’ private club in Shoreditch contacted a friend who is a member, reminding him that he should wear jeans, not a suit..
I agree that the way you approach networking can be a waste of time; it isn’t about collecting and giving out as many business cards as you can, or by hogging someone that clearly wants to speak to someone else. However, networking is a great way to be seen; raise your profile; get to know some new people and find out about industry news. Perhaps if we didn’t approach networking with a ‘pitch’ speech, but a genuine introduction to get someone talking, it wouldn’t be as much of a burden for people we are meeting!
As to image: there are occasions when wearing inappropriate clothing is a complete No, no. Particularly as a woman, we don’t wish to offend or feel uncomfortable if we aren’t wearing the right clothes. Your brand will certainly be dented if you offend overseas clients by wearing the wrong dress code and that WON’T do you any favours.
I agree that we should spend less time concerned about first impressions: not every interaction is a ‘coup de foudre’ and if you are meeting lots of people, with the best will in the world, you aren’t going to connect with everyone immediately. Many people will say that as they got to know colleagues more, they respected and trusted them more. If we JUST relied on initial impressions, some great diamonds – and mistakes would be made when judging people. I guess that as long as you don’t do anything too memorable in a negative way, you can rely on positively building relationships with colleagues and contacts rather than feeling you’ve blown it because you didn’t make a good first impression.
Finally, Stromback has moved away from a main business centre; that’s his choice and clearly it works for him. But for most humans who need to raise their profile and contacts, they need to be visible and interacting with others. Of course the internet provides you with plenty of opportunities to engage with others, but there is nothing like networking and speaking to people face to face. So I believe networking is not dead! What do you think?
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