“Networking! I hate that word.”
That’s what a recent college graduate said to me. The thing is, she is, by all accounts, an amazing “networker”. She got a great job straight out of college with people fighting over her because she built such strong connections during her internships.
“Why is networking a bad word?” I asked.
“Because”, she said, “It’s not relationship building. I don’t network. I really believe in building relationships.”
Networking vs. Relationship Building
In her mind, networking is about being friendly to someone just so you can use that relationship to get somewhere.
She told me when she builds relationships, she knows about children, vacations, likes, dislikes, hobbies. They are people who are on “speed dial”. She connects with them on a regular basis not just on the occasion when she needs something.
And the interesting thing is, as I’ve been doing research and interviewing other successful media and communication graduates, they’ve shared similar stories with me.
Someone or a number of people believed in them, mentored them, or became a friend through relationships built in school or home or work. Casual connections rarely got them a job.
There is a networking theory that basically says our strong ties aren’t as effective in helping someone get a new job as the weak ties outside of our normal network. The idea is that weak ties bring in new information and different leads.
Still, maybe my “networking star” graduate is on to something. In a world of LinkedIn, it’s easier to create weak ties and bring in new information. Everyone can make a quick easy connection. That’s the beauty of LinkedIn.
But, for college students, building a foundation of strong personal relationships with professionals is still a differentiator. Those strong relationships now also have access to trusted ties and can help make recommendations to a hiring manager.
In a tight, insular industry like media and communication, who you know vs. who will sing your praises, is very important.
For the rest of us, purposeful networking is nice. Expanding your network on LinkedIn is good.
But, I’m betting my research will find the recent graduate is right.
Regardless of where you are in your career, daring to build relationships is even better.
My current job came to me through a relationship built over many years.
What are your thoughts?