Don’t Be That Guy: The Serial Networker

“If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there.” – Martin Blank, Grosse Pointe Blank.

LinkedIn is Not a Video Game” – me, four years ago

I know, it seems weird that a group that constantly preaches about how importing networking is to your career would publish something calling out people for networking.

I assure you that there’s a good reason.

You see, there’s a huge difference between “someone who goes to networking events” and “The Serial Networker”, and there are a few easy ways to tell who’s who…

For the most part, people go to networking events because they have a specific purpose in mind.

They’re looking for a job.

They’re looking to hire someone.

They want to meet other people in the same industry to have peer connections.

In short, they have a reason for being there.  They have a goal in mind, and they’ve taken the time out of their day or evening to go somewhere that should help them achieve that goal.

But then…then there’s the other kind of people who go to networking events.

businesscardThe ones who have the same obsessive compulsive disorder that cat-hoarding crazy ladies do.

They gather business cards by the score, collecting one from every single person that they meet at each event that they hit, and then…

…well, that’s the big question, actually: what do they do with them?

Because they’re not following up with people after the fact.

They’re hitting multiple events per month.  Some may be on point to what they do day to day, or what they’re looking to do day to day…but most of them are just random events where anyone and everyone shows up.

They walk out of each one with a stack of cards in their pocket, their purse, their portfolio or their jacket pocket…but where do the cards go after that?

This isn’t like trick or treating at a conference exhibit hall.  You’re not just blithely accepting pens, mousepads, squooshy stress balls and other random nonsense from companies…you’re accepting someone’s contact information.  Which means that one of three things has happened:

  1. You made a good connection with that person after a brief conversation and would like to follow up after the fact.
  2. You’ve discovered that there is a potential benefit for either one of you two directly, or someone in your immediate network, and so further conversations are warranted.
  3. One of you is a complete idiot, either the one randomly handing out cards to people without a purpose behind doing so, or the other for accepting them.

For the sake of keeping things simple, if the answer is #3, you’re doing it wrong.

Networking is all about making connections with people.

Don’t fake it and give someone a business card out of sympathy for their situation – if you can’t help them or don’t see a point, own it.  Save yourself the days, weeks, or even months of having to ignore phone calls or pretending to be too busy to talk right then.

Same thing goes in reverse – don’t bother taking one if there’s really nothing there.  All you’re doing is delaying the pain.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to any event that you want to, and I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t experiment and see what a particular event might have to offer…but just remember that there’s a really fine line between “I popped in to see what it was like” and “that idiot insurance guy won’t stop calling me and it’s been WEEKS!”

So don’t be a serial networker.  Maintain your focus, and keep your eye on the long term goal of actually making solid, long-lasting connections that will benefit you over to the course of your career.

That’s all for this time…now go read something else: