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Forget What You've Heard—Stop Networking!

Friday, 27 Mar 2009 | 2:37 PM ET
Networking
Networking

Stop "networking" already!

No, you are not making a good impression on anyone when you pass out your business card with your email address and phone number to virtually everyone you meet.

In fact, your glad-handing behavior makes you look like a jerk at best and a loser at worst. But now virtually everyone, and especially everyone under 30, is convinced that the key to a successful career is to behave like a totally transparent nitwit.

Guess what, not true!

Despite all the academic papers and the even more ubiquitous personal finance articles about the importance of "networking," they all kind of miss the point.

Network is a noun, it never should have become a verb, and the gerund "networking," is a travesty of language. But this is what business schools teach now. Maybe it's an improvement over the former curriculum, but I kind of doubt it.

How did we get here? A bunch of researchers set out to prove that who you know is more important than what you now. Since they were right, we ended up with a copious amount of literature about the importance of networks. And networks are really important.

That doesn't mean you can "network." The geniuses at all of these business schools took a pretty predictable observation about the value of relying on your business acquaintances, friends and family to get ahead, and instead of stopping there they barreled forward with all kinds of advice about how to "maintain," "expand," and "improve" your network.

So now every time I meet someone new I'm forced into an agonizing conversation where I have to hear too many boring details about this person who I couldn't care less about while they try to figure out if there's anything I can do to help them in the job market. Couldn't we just be like dogs and simply sniff each other's butts? It would be much more pleasant.

You can't "network." What you can do is what people have always done: be nice to your friends, and make a good impression on your superiors and your colleagues at work. It's really that easy.

Introducing yourself to as many random people as possible in order to advance your career is, amazingly enough, actually a bad use of your time.

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