Service of Networking: Is That All There Is?

September 7th, 2017

Categories: Networking, Self Promotion, Uncategorized, Work


 Adam Grant, a New York Times opinion writer, author and Wharton School professor doesn’t think networking is all that it’s cracked up to be. Think of the numerous networking events–or how to network workshops–you may have forced yourself to attend. A cornerstone offering of industry associations to which I belong, his article “Networking is Overrated” caught my eye.


Grant wrote that when he read research about how people in one study felt about networking—dirty—it made him want to take a shower. Clearly he would rather not network at cocktail parties. This could very well be one of the reasons LinkedIn is so popular. It’s painless networking while you sleep.

I selected a few paragraphs that support his position. Grant wrote: 


“Not long ago, I watched a colleague try to climb the ladder of success solely through networking. For a few years, he managed to meet increasingly influential people and introduce them to one another. Eventually it fell apart when they realized he didn’t have a meaningful connection with any of them. Networking alone leads to empty transactions, not rich relationships.”

So what to do in place of networking? Become skilled at something Grant suggests.


“Of course, accomplishments can build your network only if other people are aware of them. You have to put your work out there. It shouldn’t be about promoting yourself, but about promoting your ideas. Evidence shows that tooting your own horn doesn’t help you get a job offer or a board seat, and when employees bend over backward to highlight their skills and accomplishments, they actually get paid less and promoted less. People find self-promotion so distasteful that they like you more when you’re praised by someone else–even if they know you’ve hired an agent to promote you.” [What a perfect example of the importance of third party endorsement, a cornerstone of the value of PR!]

Grant sagely pointed out that the “right people” will help you depending on what you have to offer. “Building a powerful network doesn’t require you to be an expert at networking. It just requires you to be an expert at something.”

“The best networking happens when people gather for a purpose other than networking, to learn from one another or help one another.” [That’s my kind of networking.]

Do you like to network? Do you agree with Adam Grant? Have you made worthwhile connections doing so? Were you surprised by Grant’s conclusion that tooting your own horn has a negative impact on job searches and promotions?



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8 Responses to “Service of Networking: Is That All There Is?”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    The nostrum of “different strokes for different folks” applies here. If networking comes as a natural, and is enjoyed by the individual, then chances are it will be highly effective. It’s not so good for those who may not enjoy the experience.

    Let’s stop fitting round pegs into square holes by holding classes which promise to be of little or no help for those not enthused by the concept. Drag unwilling people into such a course, and the only one who profits is the teacher and/or the organization for which he works.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I learned a few helpful tips at “how to” networking events years ago which have stood me in good stead whether at an industry gathering or wedding where the only people I know are the bride and groom. The first, for the former instance, is to arrive with a question in mind so if faced with a bank of strangers, you can ask, as an example, “can you recommend a moderately priced restaurant in the XYZ neighborhood that’s not too noisy as my client doesn’t like a racket?”

    I am the worst at remembering names. It helps if someone gives me a business card [and I can surreptitiously jot on it “red plaid blouse; knows Maisie Dokes.”] To help folks remember my name, in addition to repeating it, it’s helpful to share an associative hint such as “Byington–appropriate as I love to shop, as in buy–Byington.”

    As I dislike hanging out like a sore thumb, if I see someone alone, whether or not I’m with someone, I approach and introduce myself. I’ve directed the membership effort or headed organizations and I got my training then. At a memorable event years ago at a now defunct organization [that deserved to be], I couldn’t get the members–all strangers but in a related industry–to speak with me and ended up conversing with the carrot sticks. I waited until my friend gave her speech and couldn’t wait to get out of there. About a year later I read the association had folded. No surprise!

  3. HB Said:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Grant. I don’t like networking and was lousy at it as well as self-promotion. That said, the only time I was fired, professional friends found me work. However, there is a difference. They thought they knew what I was capable of and matched me to other friends who needed help.

    As Lucrezia correctly points out, each case is different, especially when it comes to lower level jobs, where “equal opportunity” issues come into play. Speaking of them, I do have one amusing memory: In the late 1970s, I was recruited for an especially juicy job by a bank reportedly owned and controlled by Jewish interests. The interview process got as far as a one on one interview with its President that went fine until I decided to ask an unaskable question. I noted that 16 out of the 17 most senior officers in the bank had Jewish sounding names and asked whether I, a gentile, could expect to have trouble competing, or even working with them?

    He exploded on the spot, and I quickly said thank you and good bye. To my surprise, the bank still offered me the job. I think he admired my guts in asking the question, which, after all, was a fair one. P.S. It no longer exists.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’ve been reprimanded for not blowing my horn sufficiently. I believe in the value of third party endorsement for my clients and myself.

    Yours was a bold question but if you were offered the job, the president, as you said, appreciated your guts and felt it was a fair one. You also learned that the boss exploded–a characteristic I can live without.

    You prove Grant’s point: You were recommended because of your skills and reputation. Clearly, you also knew the right people but knowing them would have done you zero good had you been lazy, incompetent or dumb.

    A last point about networking. If I have certain people to meet for business reasons, I have no trouble at all. If I’m hanging around without purpose, that’s where the dirty image Grant mentioned comes to mind: Pass the soap.

  5. Lisa Said:

    As someone who doesn’t care for “networking,” and who works at home–not a lot of networking going on there–all I can say is what a relief! Per usual interesting and important content in your blog, Jeanne. Thank you!

  6. EAM Said:

    I think this sums it up. “The best networking happens when people gather for a purpose other than networking, to learn from one another or help one another.” [That’s my kind of networking.] I’ve had many good connections and friendships over the years as a result of networking. I came across this article that supports Grant from Business Insider.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m not a joiner but discovered, thanks to a former boss who insisted that anyone who worked for her must join a particular industry association–and the company paid for it–that there are benefits, but only if you participate. Adding a membership to a CV does little. It’s the connections made by adding elbow grease to committees and board positions that count.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree with your assessment–and if nothing happens networking-wise, you’re still ahead as you may have learned something or helped someone or moved an initiative another step towards success.

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