Ever since I’ve been blogging networking has more or less been a big part of my life. It’s given me great opportunities to meet new people and form new connections, and I have done so. Whether they’re beneficial career-wise or from a social point of view.
I’ve been to so many events I’ve lost count, events found on Shoobs, Eventbrite or Meetup.com. But I can’t help thinking that networking is not without its flaws and a networking event I recently was a reminder of the cons, especially in the time.
1. Social Cliques
I’m gonna get straight into them and I’ll start off with my first problem: cliques. It’s getting tiring seeing people spending the whole night with the same 1 or 2 individuals in the same spot of the damn room. Only moving to get food and drink, only to go back to the same individuals. They’re seemingly not mingling with any new faces and if you dare try to make an effort to interact with them, they treat you like you’re invisible and barely acknowledge your presence rather than inviting you to join their group.
It’s sad and frustrating when I see cliques at networking gigs. I get that people like to be in a comfort zone but a fresh face could be your potential business partner across the room, your new bestie or could have a few words of encouragement to keep you going on your venture. Point is you don’t really know who you could bump into – unless you’re sticking with the same old familiar faces. It’s a loss for themselves and a loss for those who may want to speak to them but the cliques are like steel walls. The most mind boggling thing about cliquey people, generally speaking, is that they forget that they were once that new face/fish out of water person and forget how it felt to be that person.
Some even bring their friends along and would spend an entire evening speaking ONLY to their friends who came with them. I understand why they may bring their friends. They may have not been to a networking event before, are introverted or have social anxiety. Networking can be that extra challenging if you’re shy and there’s no quick fix or change of mindset that will happen overnight.
The issue with just sticking with your close friends you defeat the purpose of networking, which is to meet new people. Having a friend by your side should give you more confidence in networking with people not stop you from doing so.
It’s also important knowing that people at these events are often friendly and would be up for a conversation, because they’re here to meet new people too. Dont hesitate in saying hi, introducing yourself and just be yourself. I know it’s easier said than done but over time you’ll realise it’s not as frightening of an experience as you probably imagined. They’ll be interactions that dont go as well but it’s almost impossible that you’re going to vibe with everyone at the event.
Otherwise If you’re going to end up hanging around with your bestie all night then you’re better off finding yourself a table for 2 at a restaurant to be brutally honest. You’ll be giving up those valuable spaces to people who actually want to connect.
2. Stigma Towards Small Talk
Then there’s the issue with small talk. Lots of people hate small talk because it is often generic and bland. I for one do agree to some extent. It can feel like an interview sometimes hearing the same questions “have you been to a networking before” “what do you do for a living” etc . But unless you have a witty, easygoing personality then small talk is like a necessary evil for people if you’re trying to find a commonality with someone. Once you find that commonality then conversation can start flowing and therefore it’ll feel like you’re chatting to a close friend (okay maybe not quite but you catch my drift 😜). Not intending to come across as patronising but that’s simply how a lot of social interactions in life are.
3. Social Media
Another thing that bothers me, and sadly this involves bloggers and content creators, is the authenticity of said people. When I meet them in real life they’re seemingly not being the persona they portray themselves to be on social media. Again this is something I’ve recently I’ve experienced with a few travel bloggers I thought I knew on socials (I obviously wont state who they are). Their energy and vibes are not consistent and retreated to their cliques with minimal to none effort back. Maybe because they’re nervous as I said. However if they’re not and their real life personalities are different then the saying never meet your heroes couldn’t be any more true.
On the subject of social media, one sad probable truth thats affected networking these days is that creatives attend these events just to boost their follow count. A lot of them are quick to pull out their phones and exchange Instagram handles in the first few minutes of conversation. If you’ve built rapport and enjoyed their company then sure, exchange contacts. But not before getting to know the other person and striking meaningful conversation. It presents the idea that this person is just another stat to them and for me that’s not authentic networking at all.
In fact I feel like everyday human interaction and connect with the physical world is being lost because we’re too immersed with our smartphones, social media and other smart gadgets.
Of recent I’ve become very disillusioned with networking and even the blogging community, in London at the very least. Some of these things are out of but event organisers can do better in terms of encouraging people to engage with each other, ease new people into environments and have cliques be more inviting and to newcomers. Because – without motivation or enforcement – people will be happy enough to stay in their comfort zone.
Going forward I’m going to have a long and hard think about the networking events I plan: what activities they’re running, the kind of people it’s for, whether they’re going to benefit me socially and can help move my blog forward. On the social front it’s even more deflating knowing that as an adult there’s not much opportunity to meet new people and make new friends outside of work or academia.
But I still do hold optimism for networking. Recently I came across something Cool School, which is going to be like a Networking school starting in the new year. Organised by Mr Cakebox (a.k.a. Andrew) who does a podcast called ReDesigned Podcast, big shoutout to him. It’s in 6 week blocks so they’ll be events held weekly for six weeks with different topics being discussed every week. There’s even the plan of calling out names from a register so you remember names easier. The more I hear about it the more I’m sold on the idea of Cool School.
Looks like I’m going back to school. As I said it gives me hope for modern day networking.
I can only hope things change this year, maybe by going to the right events and spaces. One thing for sure now is that my first New Years Resolution is gonna be choosing networking events that are effective. Simple.
Johnny | Johnny’s Traventures