According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, “99% of any networking event is a waste of time”. In the article, the author – Richard Stromeback – claims that networking is about making a connection and being authentic. This made me realise that the value of networking must be in how well we spend the remaining 1%.
We have to make sure not to get distracted by the 99% but use it to our advantage. The way we build our relationship afterwards is very important. People are looking for real conversations and relationships. Not everyone and actually very few working people have time for endless glad-handing. That is because it rarely adds value.
Stop networking and start building your social capital
Focus your efforts on building strategic social capital and influence. Your strategic social capital is made up of trusted relationships that will serve your personal and professional goals.
Women are notoriously bad at it because we’ve never really been taught how to do this effectively whereas most men have been socialized to connect effectively. When it comes to our personal lives, women rarely leverage the key relationships in their network to serve career ambitions. It’s time we change that and start thinking strategically about our relationships, personal and professional, so we are better equipped to plot our leadership trajectories.
Building strategic social capital has nothing to do with networking in the traditional sense. When was the last time you went to a professional networking event and learned something, were inspired or had a good time? If networking gives you anxiety in any shape or form it’s time to stop wasting your time. You’d be far better served spending time and focusing on events and efforts where you are engaged, where your curiosity and learning are stimulated.
5 tips for getting the most from your networking activities
- Be selective: You don’t want to become a networking junkie, going to every event that presents itself. The best way to vet potential events is to use screening criteria. This may include things such as the location, the people in the attendance, comments from past participants, etc.
- Know what to avoid: Most people don’t like networking because they think it’s time intensive and distracting from their work. However, if you are extremely efficient and focus on what is truly essential, your time is not wasted but rather invested wisely.
- Vary your networking activities: There is a lot of places where you can actually meet people while learning new skills such as workshops, conferences, special events.
- Engage and assess: This is where your 30-second elevator pitch can make a big difference. It should be rehearsed and fluid. With the right elevator pitch, you can determine within seconds of meeting someone whether the conversation can go further. Politely exiting a conversation to pursue the next one is another skill you need to practice.
- Deepen existing relationships: Instead of going to networking events with the intention of meeting new people, consider checking in with some of your existing connections. Have you properly followed up with the promising contacts you have made over the past month? Have you maintained your relationships with strategic partners and centres of influence?
For those interested in making authentic connections with people and learning something about them, there is no better opportunity. The key is to stop networking and start connecting.
Women’s rights advocate and gender equality specialist, Darine BenAmara has dedicated her career to supporting other women. She is an international speaker, writer and advocate. Darine has significant international experience advancing women in leadership, leading global diversity and inclusion programs and advocating for women at work. Inspired by the many women she met, she designed “The Smart Woman”, an initiative helping women to overcome the challenges of networking and learn how to create smart connections to fulfill their career goals.