Why Networking Is an Overrated Career Tool By itself, networking is ambiguous and inefficient, as the simple act of networking lacks a clear beginning and end goal.
This story originally appeared on Personal Branding Blog
Critical thinkers are a dying breed and logic is becoming a lost art. Ironically, we have more access to information than any generation. Whether it be at the gym, office or on the couch, we can readily access information, however we question the validity of what we read and hear less and less.
If I had $1 for each time I heard some derivative of the phrase, "so you go and network and recruit people," I'd never technically pay for my own lunch again.
Between reading articles and speaking to job seekers and hiring companies, it's become evident that many are misinformed about what is and what is not an efficient job search/recruitment strategy.
By itself, networking is ambiguous and inefficient, as the simple act of networking lacks a clear beginning and end goal.
An Intangible Practice with Multiple Definitions
If you ask 10 people to define what networking is, you'll get 10 very different definitions. If you ask the same individuals how they go about networking, maybe 1/3 of those individuals can provide you with clear steps that logically make sense.
Officially, the word "network" has a multitude of meanings. Some of which are in verb form (i.e. networking), others exist in noun form. For the sake of relevancy, we'll stay on the definitions that are career-oriented.
According to dictionary.com, when used as a verb, the formal definition of networking is "the act of cultivating people who can be helpful to one professionally" (which is vague). Merriam Webster has a bit more robust definition and defined networking for our sales recruitment specialists as "the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business."
Frequently Used in HR and Job Search, Rarely Questioned
By definition, the phrase is very similar to "recruiting." Therefore, to claim it to be a viable recruiting or job search strategy is technically being redundant. However recruiters are very rarely asked what their definition of networking is, nor are job seekers when they claim networking to be an effective job search tool.
It's almost like when you tell your child you're busy, "doing business." Because the connotation of the word seems official, productive and authoritative, the child will often refrain from requesting his or her parent's attention.
The lack of logical thinking is advantageous to lower quality HR heads and headhunters because it allows them to circumvent having to discuss recruiting practices and strategies in-depth, while still sounding productive and professional. Rarely is the phrase, "I'm consistently networking to recruit employees," countered with, "what do you mean by networking?"
Attending Professional Events to Socialize
In many instances, attending events such as trade shows or cocktail hours ceases to be professional and becomes a social event with business professionals. A cocktail hour is the same as a happy hour; it's just with business people.
Have you ever heard Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg or any other billionaire attribute their wealth to their ability to network or a group they found on meetup.com? Rather, they had clear strategies for success that were well defined and executed upon those plans.
In business, networking is a flawed wealth building strategy. The majority of individuals who attend a professional event to find a job do or obtain new business do so because it's social in nature, and thus requires less focus (a key component to success) and 9 out of 10 times leave with business cards which amount to little.
However, they waste a significant amount of the most valuable resource we have, which is time. Usage of the internet to recruit or search for a job is much more efficient and thus is the recruiting form of preference by companies serious about hiring based upon qualifications and skills.
In the End
Because many people lack clearly defined strategies to reach predetermined goals, networking is going to sound professional, but prove to be inefficient. There is no question that networking as social interaction with other business professionals is interesting, enjoyable and healthy. However, in most instances, logic will tell us that there are more efficient ways to achieve our job-seeking or recruiting goals.
Related: The Mentality of a Successful Career