Online networking – a Sisyphean task? How to make a bad use of a connection building tool?

Many times I heard that networking is a bad tool that simply doesn’t work. It benefits only printing companies and restaurants. Having been to hundreds of networking events, I want to share my thoughts on the topic at hand.

So why is it used to no gain and many people see it as a Sisyphean task?

Let’s start from Sisyphus. He is a tragic character from Greek mythology. A king very much liked by gods who invited him to their parties on top of the Mount Olympus. Like at many parties today, back in the antiquity guests were keen to share stories and gossips. Being a good listener, one day Sisyphus disclosed Zeus’ little secret. From that day on angry god wanted to kill him. As creative as he was, Sisyphus used a trick that helped him run away. Later, however, he was forced to go into hiding. After tracking him down many years later, gods sentenced him to eternal futile labor making him endlessly roll a huge boulder up a steep hill which would roll away from King Sisyphus before he reached the top. Sisyphus had to subsequently start his poitnless effort over and over again.

Networking events, especially among women, often turn into something in between gossip sessions and series of small talks delivering no results whatsoever. It’s great to meet nice people, learn what they do and share contacts. But it’s also frustrating when you come home and start looking at your mobile asking yourself a question: Will he/she call? when you conclude you are no good / attractive / charismatic enough to have people call you without asking them to. Or you may burst into tears when you realize your portfolio lacks product that „sells itself/automatically”.

If networking is a gossip session for you – don’t expect it to work and deliver results!

Let us return to Sisyphus. In multiple self-help books it says that being consistent is the key to success. But is it? If that was the case, Sisyphus would definitely be the first person to have ever achieved a spectacular success! He symbolizes, however, a person who gets involved in a series of tedious tasks. I also made a similar mistake at the beginning of my journey. Namely, I made a decision to attend networking events once a week, get to know other people and tell them about who I was, what it was I did, and collecting their business cards. After a few months, I noticed my wallet getting thinner and thinner, a few close relationships requiring a catch up, let alone even the basic chores. Determination and perseverence I showed taking down notes on the cards did not translate into a single new client! It all proved to be a Sisyphean task!

Well, if habits don’t work – perhaps it’s about time to put on one’s thinking hat and start asking questions: why am I doing this? What do I want to achieve?

If networking is merely a series of occassions to pass on business cards – it won’t work!

A few more words about Sisyphus. The guy used to basically hang out with his crowd among kings and gods of the Mount Olympus. He might have had a good time but the question was if that was what he was actually looking for? I thought about it with regards to my own situation and ultimately decided to change my strategy. If networking events cost money, I can at least attend those offering also seminars and training sessions apart from mere networking. The benefit was getting to know new people and learning new things. The idea itself seemed good but…I was still hanging around people from my industry: coaches, trainters, advisers and consultants. I did learn a thing or two from time to time but on most occassions the offer included no added value while with new acquaintances we exchanged cards and discussed ways of landing new clients. Effects? Limited to say the least. 🙂

Are you networking with people from your industry only? It won’t work!

Wrapping up on Sisyphus’ story, we could come to a conclusion that networking itself won’t deliver results if it is either an opportunity to have a nice dinner or give you nothing but a feeling you are looking for clients.
But what is the link between Sisyphus and online networking after all?

Online networking can also drive limited results if we use social media channels just as a space where we register our virtual profiles. This WON’T work.

Imagine you have a profile on a listing page just like thousands other specialists. What are the odds of being spotted? How can one find a good coach on coach network.com with virtually unlimited choice options? How can one tell if the person is >the< person for >them<? By filtering the search results based on price and reviews? Creating fake reviews is a piece of cake nowadays. How can you tell that the specialist is actually >the< handyman you were looking for then?
Well, it that is how you approach online networking, it will prove to be nothing but yet another Sisyphous task.

So when networking can actually work? I will write about it soon. Stay tuned! 🙂