One of the most common pieces of career advice given to young people is to network, network, network. But if you're following it to the letter, you might actually be wasting your time.
"We've all been there," bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch tells CNBC Make It. "You meet someone at a work-related cocktail hour, or at the end of an industry conference, and as you say goodbye, they stick a business card into your hand and you do the same."
Though this practice is common — standard, even — Welch says that she believes this kind of networking "actually hurts your career, and you should replace it immediately with a different approach."
"I know, 'Get out there and network,' is one of the most common pieces of advice given to job-seekers and career-builders," she says. "The idea is, you're supposed to attend everything, make small talk with anyone who's got a pulse, and, yep, plant a card into as many palms as possible."
But Welch urges job-seekers to consider how often they've actually gained a trusted contact or a promising lead this way. Probably not often — if ever. That's because "human beings help friends, not 'contacts.'"
Ignore the idea that you have to meet and connect with everyone. Instead, "focus your energy on forging authentic business relationships."
"They may be fewer in number," she says, "but they are far more effective." While this more focused approach may sound risky, the "commitment, structure and discipline" it requires pays off.
"I have a friend who started a PR business from scratch," she says. "At the outset, she scheduled three business lunches a week. But prospecting for leads wasn't the only thing on the menu. My friend asked about people's career dreams and talked a lot about the Philadelphia Eagles. If someone had a cold, she checked in on them a few days later."
Now, Welch says, that same friend's business is nine years old and bringing in over $5 million in revenue "because she played the long game."
"Giving a card or getting a card — that's just not how anything of substance gets done," explains Welch. "Don't bother. Don't network. Make friends instead."
Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video by Claire Nolan
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