Six Networking Myths

You already know what networking is, so now let’s take a closer look at what networking is not. Networking is not a simple game of “connect-the-dots” between whom you know and whom they know. Using a friend’s name without their consent can jeopardize both relationships. You may think that once you have established a close relationship with someone, his or her network is automatically your network. This is not true. Networking is not something you can do by yourself; it takes the participation and conscious help of others.

Here are a several more myths about networking.

Myth 1: Networking is only for times when you are not busy.

Reality: There seems to be a boom and bust mentality around networking. People think that when business is good, they can ignore everyone around them, and that others will naturally understand that they are busy. Conversely, when things slow down, those people rally and try to pick up where they left off. In reality, if you fail to cultivate a relationship it will wither away. Jumping back into networking makes you seem flighty. No one is so busy that they cannot pick up the phone and call people on occasion. As long as you have to eat lunch, schedule it with someone that you want to keep in touch with. If you are too busy to pay any attention to other people you are either over-worked, ineffective or have an inflated view of your own self-importance.

Myth 2: Only senior executives need a network.

Reality: Everyone can benefit from having a professional network. This is especially true for young professionals just starting out. For your future job, current position, or opportunities down the road, you must build your reputation, skills and relationships now. No matter what your level, industry or job function, affiliations with others only have an upside. And remember, while networking, you are not only representing your employer; you are representing yourself. If your employer won’t support your networking efforts by giving you the time and resources to join organizations and attend meetings (shame on them!), find a way to make it happen on your own. Your career is worth the investment.

Myth 3: The people you meet networking are never helpful.

Reality: If you do for others, most of them will return the favor. While the payoff may not be immediate, you must remember that the real reward is in developing a new relationship. Over the years we have had many experiences where people we met through networking have directly given us business, referred business to us, recruited us to better jobs or become some of our closest friends. Case in point: Thom’s youngest daughter’s godmother is someone he met at a networking event.

Myth 4: Networking is unnecessary because if your GPA is high enough, the campus career center will find a job for you.

Reality: This is never true. While you may be more eligible for certain jobs from companies that are recruiting on campus, no one is going to find a position for you. More likely than not, the counselors at the career center don’t even know you exist. Now might be a good time to start networking with them!

Myth 5: Decision makers never attend networking events.

Reality: Everyone goes somewhere. While the people you want to meet (i.e. hiring managers) might not be at the same events that you attend, they are not all hermits. Additionally, other people in their firms or in their networks just might be there, and you may have a chance to get an introduction through someone else.

Myth 6: Networking events sponsored by a particular organization are all the same. If the first one was a waste of time, there is no point in going back.

Reality: The chances are slim that you met everyone who belongs to the organization at one event. People lead busy lives and cannot possibly attend every event; no matter how committed to networking they are. Remember, it only takes one person who knows about the perfect job opportunity for you to change your life. Don’t let one bad event keep you from meeting that one person.

This article was written by: Anne Brown & Thom Singer and is a modified excerpt from their book "Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Graduates" (New Year, 2010)