Modern Networking Is Broken (And Here’s Why)

Everyone in the world wants to connect with other people. We attend events and pay big money for this type of thing. We want to meet others that will help us in accomplishing our dreams. There’s just one problem…

Most people are doing it all wrong.

Modern Networking is Broken
Image credit: Tim Herrick (Creative Commons)

Why our networking is all jacked up

“Connection” without action is forgettable.

You can’t follow someone on Twitter or meet a person at a conference and instantly be connected to him. You have do the hard work of relationship.

The meeting is the introduction; the followup is the true connection.

Think about what a real friend does:

A real friend is there for you to bear your burdens. A real friend does more than stroke your ego or ask you for favors. A real friend tells the truth.

Having a “connection” with someone isn’t the same as friendship. And your goal really should be to make more friends, not superficial connections.

Friendship is more than networking.

Friendship is mutual. It’s sacrificial. It’s hard. But it’s worth it.

So what’s the catch?

You have to do something

This is how true connection is made, how real influence is earned. Not by simply grabbing coffee or having a quick phone call, but by finding a common interest and doing work.

It doesn’t have to be a paid gig (and in some cases shouldn’t be), but it has to cost you something. It has to require more effort than your chewing of a scone or sipping of a beverage. (What? You don’t like scones? Shame on you…)

This is the very best way to network: serve people.

Do a favor.
Go the extra mile.
Be a friend (even if it’s not reciprocated).

Being generous with your time and resources will dismantle any suspicion the person may have had toward you. She’ll let her guard and invite you into her life.

What’s the point?

You want people to associate an action with your name when they see you pop up in their inbox or show up on their voice mail.

You don’t want them to think: “Oh yeah, he ordered the arugula salad…”

You want them to remember: “Wow, he was that guy who did that tremendous favor for me without my asking for it. I wonder what he’s up to?” (Besides, arugula… seriously? That stuff has no flavor.)

If you want to have more influence, you have to be willing to do this. You have to be willing to earn someone’s attention.

The alternative

Otherwise, you’re just another entitled moocher, asking for a handout.

And we have enough of those in the world, thank-you-very-much.

So be different. Be remarkable. Be a friend.

What do you think is broken with modern networking? Have you tried this method of action-based networking? Share your thoughts in the comments.

*Photo credit: Tim Herrick (Creative Commons)

59 thoughts on “Modern Networking Is Broken (And Here’s Why)

  1. Now this was some good early morning reading! I will be posting this on my blog as a trackback. We know what needs to be done, but sometimes reading or hearing it makes it clearer. Simple and very effective!

  2. Good post.  I think many people are just trying to “connect” to see what they can get for themselves.  This morning I had a conversation with a young person whom we have no place for in our ministry at the time, but she seems like a wonderful person to get to know and keep in mind for the future.  I told her it would be great to have coffee and just get to know each other. She was like, “ok.”  But no real underlying interest or show of desire to “do” it.  She wanted a place to serve “now.”  She missed an opportunity for networking and future possibilities for her ministry.

  3. We live and think in 140 characters now. That is how fast life is moving and that is all we want most of the time. So you see someone share something fairly personal on Twitter, other than what they had for lunch, and we mistake that for conversation. We then allow ourselves to think that we are “in.”

    I will try and use that to start a conversation with someone instead. 

  4. I think doing things for others without expecting anything in return is huge, both in person and networking online. Help to make it about the other person without making the focus on you. Though we may be behind a computer screen a lot of the time, people can still see whether we’re authentic in our words and actions. 

  5. Hi Jeff, you’ve hit the nail on right the head as usual! We all need to work at relationship in all areas of our lives.

  6. Clap! Clap! Clap! This is me standing here and applauding, Jeff. You’re right – so many people did networking wrong before the internet and they’re still doing it wrong now.

    It pains me how people think that by tweeting someone’s stuff or leaving a comment on their blog that now you magically “owe” them. It’s such a turnoff. There are some who only do those things to get your attention and then want you to do something for them. It’s the equivalent of holding the door for someone and then saying, “well, since I did that for you, can you help me move?” It’s not equivalent or appropriate.

    All that said, do/serve first. And often, you want even have to ask for a favor in return. The person will be so glad to have your help, they’ll be begging to see how they can help you. 

  7. I really like this. I have felt that the term “friends” has become much more loosely defined recently.  Social media makes people feel connected but I think it diminishes some of the depth of the relationships. It is helpful for maintaining contact from a distance (I’ve moved from my home state, so I’m not able to see people in person as much as I’d like). There is value in that but not at the expense of real bonds.  Thanks for writing and starting the discussion here.

  8. Awesome post! The world works so much better when people live to serve others. It’s not always easy, but the benefits are so much greater. Too often we have friends, spouses, and connections so that we can benefit from them. We need to have them so that they can benefit from us. Thanks for writing this! 

  9. The old way of networking was a transaction no different than buying underwear at WalMart. I give WalMart money, they give me new skibbies. 

    I like what you are saying. We definitely need more friends in the world and not just people that we feel can give us an edge. 

  10. Serving people is so key. I personally am always leary of the people who just want superficial connections and handouts. There has to be that level of service to go beyond just a Twitter connection to an actual friend/network.

  11. Networking > relationship > friendship > trust

    There is no one I trust more than a good friend.

  12. I really love this post. I so treasure the people I’ve met through “networking” who have become TRUE friends and comrades. Thank you for the reminder of what makes life truly valuable.

  13. Man this it hot on the money. 

    And I’ve got to say, you’re a REAL networker. Put me to shame. I think this aspect of your online presence is (in my eyes) what gives Goins Writer its unique edge. Its purple cow. 

    1. thanks, man. i really appreciate that. i hadn’t thought about that – i’ve been wondering what the unique voice/brand of my blog is. you may have helped me find it. i have to admit – this has been a discovery process.

      1. Don’t worry, I’m still trying to find my own. I think we get used to our own accent. 

        I’m curious: you display a disconnect between your polished post prose and your comments/emails/tweets. Why the lowercase? 

  14. Good point that we should all practice this…a little friendliness does go a long way!

    But I have to say you’re wrong on the arugula–I grew it in my garden this summer and it’s potent stuff!! Realized we didn’t like it too much only after planting 2 rows 🙂

  15. Right. Interesting that I read this post from you just as I set down Seth Godin’s book “Permission Marketing”, which has a subtitle of “Turning strangers into friends and friends into customers” (like you didn’t know!).

    I wholeheartedly agree, Jeff. Relationship work is the most essential work we do and yet there is such an overwhelming tendency to overlook this natural resource and all the difference it can make in our lives, both professional and personal.

    Excellent work!


  16. I have worked hard at networking and building a network of people and connections online. I have a decent following, but I have a smaller group on Twitter that I consider my friends even though some of them I have never met. Those that I have met, we try to keep even closer touch. One thing I do is try to go out of my way to help promote what they are doing online. If they are my friend and I believe in what they are doing, I love to be able to share with others and help spread the word. I don’t do it just because they may turn around and help me, I do it because I genuinely want to help. 
    Help for managing your home, family and life

  17. Beautiful post. Yes, you are a friend, and I work hard to instill that in my work as well. Love your messages.

    C. Hope Clark

  18. Hi Jeff,

    You’re raising a great point – modern networking IS NOT working. Very few actually follow-up on the initial meeting, and even fewer take action. And rare are those who go on to proactively help others without asking for anything in return.

    I’m in charge of a team of connectors, who facilitate connections being made during our cocktails. I’m very much interested in constantly improving the process and value I can provide to people at the event, and beyond the event. I try to keep making connections between the events as well. 

    I quickly found myself overwhelmed with interesting people I’d like to connect but just don’t have the time to do so. I believe there is a need for a smart system that suggests new connections and ways of helping people you meet, after having entered the relevant information about them in that system.

    I might have been on a bit of a rant, but I hope this is valuable.

    Take care!

        1. no. i’m saying that i prefer making friends to handing out business cards. if i can meet 50 people at a party or really connect with 5, i’ll choose the 5 every time.

          1. Hmm, that’s definitely food for thought. Thanks! I agree with you. I still tend to go for larger numbers but it’s when I really connect with someone that it makes my networking worthwhile.

  19. I’ve been ambivalent about online social networking for years – it’s too formal and too superficial at the same time, somehow!

    The real privilege is being able to work alongside people by choice, to build on each others’ thoughts, and see first-hand how the collaboration brings about work that wouldn’t have happened without the connection.

  20. I’ve been ambivalent about online social networking for years – it’s too formal and too superficial at the same time, somehow!

    The real privilege is being able to work alongside people by choice, to build on each others’ thoughts, and see first-hand how the collaboration brings about work that wouldn’t have happened without the connection.

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