Networking Is Overrated
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.
It’s a lesson I’ve learned in my own career. I once emailed an entrepreneur I admired and got nothing in response. Some months later he contacted me out of the blue, with no memory that I had tried to get in touch before. He had attended a talk I gave and wanted to meet — now he had proof that I could add value.
My students often believe that if they simply meet more important people, their work will improve. But it’s remarkably hard to engage with those people unless you’ve already put something valuable out into the world. That’s what piques the curiosity of advisers and sponsors. Achievements show you have something to give, not just something to take.