It's about people

Writing that last post about meeting +Spencer Bean helped me realize something.

Networking. Why do you do it?

I suppose the first question you should ask yourself is, "Do I network?" You probably do some networking even if you don't realize it because, well, you're alive. But do you network with a purpose?

Oh, there are many "good" reasons to network. You know them. "Networking is the best way to get a job," you've heard people say. "I knew a guy who knew a guy," someone quips when congratulated on his new position.

These are all true. Networking is the best way to find a job. It is the best way to know and use resources well beyond your personal abilities. It is an incredible way to advance your career, improve your talents, add arrows to your quiver of experience, and climb in through windows when doors of opportunity slam shut in your face. But that's not what I realized. I've know those truths for a long time.

Perhaps the best reason to network is that it's fun! Don't think so? You may be doing it wrong. But more likely, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

If you reach out to strangers only so that you can increase your odds of getting a job, develop a sales lead, name drop, or otherwise benefit yourself, there's a good chance you hate networking!

Why? Because networking should be fun! While it's true that the most obvious results of personal and professional networking are manifest in landing jobs and being invited places, the most obvious results are, quite honestly, not the most important results. Reaching out is hard--a sometimes intimidating feat that requires a lot of effort. And if you measure the success of your networking in big, life-altering events, you're going to be disappointed.

So measure it in small, life-altering events.

Below is a visualization of my professional network on LinkedIn. It's not beautiful because it's relatively large, because I'm in the center of it, or even because it's mostly pink. No, it's beautiful because each one of those tiny, colorful dots represents a person that I know.

Networking is fun for me because I've had lunch with many of these people. Because I know about the hopes and dreams of many of these people. Because I've learned much of what I know from these people. Because I'd feel comfortable reaching out to most of these people to ask them how things are going and get an update on their latest successes. 

You see, networking isn't about jobs. It's not about dots or numbers or interviews. It's about people.

Make it about the people. You'll love it. And the rest will take care of itself. 

by Tyler Smith


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