I Stopped Going to Networking Events…And When You Should, Too

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Since launching my course on Excel for job seekers, I’ve been ruminating on the past few years since I found my first job and what I might have done differently. After all, I describe the course as “what I wish I’d had.” Well, what else would I have wanted to know?

One thing is for sure — I wish I hadn’t taken a job that required an hour-plus one-way commute. That was terrible. 

But there’s another thing I regret, one which bucks so much conventional wisdom.

I wish I hadn’t gone to so many networking events.

Crazy, right? 

The importance of networking is up there with red power ties and handwritten thank-you notes in the pantheon of careers advice.

So I went gung-ho, joining clubs, attending events… being that guy that you see everywhere. 

I went so crazy with it that I wrote a book on going to networking events! 

Then I realized that writing a book about networking was actually more enjoyable than networking itself. That seemed odd. Very few activities in life are more fun to write about than to actually do them. 

Diminishing marginal returns of networking events hit. What was I gaining from these events, besides a few extra Facebook friends and a couple stood-up dates? (yes.)

Then it hit me. Most networking advice falls in the realm of ladder-climbing and Rolodexes. It is woefully outdated. 

The idea is that you will muscle into the event with enough charisma and business cards that somehow, you will find someone who will pull some strings who will advance your career.

This is all built on the idea that “who you know” depends on how much political sway your minions have at their company. This is all wrong and broken. Rather than power and ladders, today’s networking must be built on creativity and collaboration.

That takes work. And it’s not going to be done fishing for business cards at happy hour. 

Corollary:

The people you really want to meet are too busy making things to go to a networking event.

My blogging and content creation has been infinitely more important to my network than any event I attended. That’s because it’s forced me to define my why and to give first before asking. It’s a purposeful act, not a random way to spend Tuesday night where I may just bounce into somebody.

But here’s the kicker.

If you haven’t found your why…. then go to networking events.

In my case, it took these events to understand my passion was to write, first about networking, which then led to me to write more generally about my career as an analyst, which eventually morphed mostly into Excel, the topic that I justlaunched the course on. 

Sitting at home, I would never have mapped this out. It took me months of fruitless networking events, paradoxically, to force me past the need to attend them. 

So, if you’re still not sure what to write about, or what you love to do, go to networking events. You may meet some wonderful people. You will probably never see them again.

You’ll probably get some good happy hour deals, at least. Make that a blog? 

Can Microsoft Excel help you get hired? Check out my new course on converting the essential Excel toolkit to better interviews. 

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